Heifer International's Honduras Country Program has supported small farmers through projects diversifying their agriculture and encouraging the production of milk, homemade dairy products, honey, pollen, eggs, fish, chickens and hogs for their own consumption. This umbrella project includes "Strengthening Rural Microenterprises, Sustainable Food Systems in Copán, and Planting the Seeds of Hope in Southern Honduras." Heifer is working to improve the quality of life for almost 6,000 families in Honduras through microenterprise, agroecological farming, improved production, animal placements, building capacities, natural resource management, revolving funds and more.
José Santos Vásquez Hernández, 58, has seen improvements in his own family as a result of this project. Provided with 20 hens and a rooster, as well as a shelter to better manage and protect them, the family diet has drastically changed as a result of egg production, especially that of their grandchildren and daughter. Don Jose Santos had experience in managing small animals, but the trainings helped him to better manage the fowl.
Their hens produce 17 eggs each day, which has allowed them to stop buying eggs from salespeople who sell them for 13 cents each. That money can now go to other necessities. In addition, they use the money from selling eggs to their neighbors to buy other basic food items. The family's short-term goal is to be able to fulfill their Passing on the Gift commitment for another family, just as they were helped. They also want to pay back the funds from the rotating fund, which will buy materials for the shelter for the Passing on the Gift family.
Strengthening Rural Microenterprises:
- All of the microenterprises have their internal rules and policies in place and are in implementation phase. They have increased their levels of production by 30 percent to 70 percent and six have shown positive cash flows. Ninety percent are developing environmental management plans.
- 58 percent of the people trained were women and five of the seven women-managed enterprises began selling their products at the local and municipal levels.
Sustainable Food Systems in Copán
- During this period, 64 cows, 861 hens and 12 goats were provided to 116 original families (60 men and 56 women).
- 38 percent of the families targeted have diversified and improved their nutrition. Families are producing an average of one gallon of cow's milk, 0.4 gallons of goat's milk and 20 eggs per family, improving their income by an estimated five percent. Additionally, 105 families have planted family vegetable gardens with local crops, with at least two different uses. To date, 16 vegetable gardens have achieved sustainability.
- Nearly 720 hours of training were provided to 1,150 participants in animal welfare and health to reduce mortality. Four field schools and volunteer promoter schools provided trainings to direct participants, neighbors and other community families in agroecology.
- Families have been monitored in aspects such as handling of small and large species, agroecological methods and approaches, making use of vegetable garden produce through nutrition education, and technical assistance for those groups and families with entrepreneurial initiatives.
- 100 percent of families have access to the revolving fund and the majority has made use of it to build animal shelters and fences and to improve their plots. The groups continue to increase their seed capital through the revolving fund, which is used to expand infrastructures and purchase materials for the Passing on the Gift families.
- In some cases, groups led by women are taking the lead in results and actions such as increasing membership and presenting production, business and transformation initiatives.
- Five Chinese-type and 54 plastic biodigesters are in use. Communities are beginning to practice no-burning techniques and initiating vermiculture, using waste from their animals.
Planting the Seeds of Hope in Southern Honduras
- The project has benefited 425 families of the 1,026 total families it aims to reach. Some 334 families added animal species to their farms, including 78 milk cows and 2,042 laying hens.
- To date, 14 families have begun to sell their vegetables in the local market, at a 26 percent profit.
- So far, 74 agroecology model farms have been established, using natural fertilizers, live fences and wind breaks. A small agroecological fair was held in the municipality of Concepcion de María in which producers who have vegetable gardens participated.
A total of 89 participants are using the revolving fund. They have used the funds to expand sheds and shelters, to plant and store corn and basic grains, and to build irrigation systems.