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UN rural development official begins visit to Guatemala

UN rural development official begins visit to Guatemala

Kanayo F. Nwanze
The head of the United Nations rural development arm, Kanayo F. Nwanze, today began an official visit to Guatemala to talk with the Central American country’s leaders today about ways of alleviating poverty and tackling environmental challenges.

Kanayo F. Nwanze, the President of the UN International Fund Agricultural Development Fund (IFAD), will meet with President Álvaro Colom Caballeros and representatives from the IFAD-funded Rural Development Program for Las Verapaces (PRODEVER) to review progress of the programme’s poverty-reduction and market-access projects.

He will also tour the Guatemalan countryside to visit IFAD co-financed projects in the departments of El Quiché and Las Verapaces.

The $26 million PRODEVER program in Las Verapaces, which started in 2001 with financing from IFAD, has helped some 1,800 farmers and small business owners to increase their incomes. The programme has successfully improved market access by creating several infrastructure and training projects, including the construction or rehabilitation of approximately 169 kilometres of rural roads.

Project participants have also built 12 new cardamom processing centres and eight new cacao facilities.

“PRODEVER has provided smallholder farmers with the training and tools they need to become independent entrepreneurs,” said Josefina Stubbs, the Director of IFAD’s Latin America and the Caribbean Division.

“They have also created lasting mechanisms to ensure small-scale farmers and rural producers have access to national and international markets. Over the long haul, this increased market access means that the poor rural people of Guatemala are more likely to break the cycle of poverty,” said Ms. Stubbs.

The PRODEVER programme has also helped more than 1,600 women learn to how to read, generated over 300 new jobs for the region and opened new international markets for local producers.

“Guatemala has broken into the big leagues. Thanks to programs like PRODEVER, smallholder producers are now exporting around 1 million mandarin oranges to [US supermarket chain] Wal-Mart,” said Ms. Stubbs. “They also succeeded in exponentially increasing exports of coffee, cardamom and other speciality produce,” she added.

In El Quiché, Mr. Nwanze will meet with leaders from the IFAD-supported first phase of the National Rural Development Programme in the west of the country. The $48 million project is designed to reduce poverty levels and discrimination in the predominantly indigenous area. IFAD is to provide $30 million of the programme’s funding.

“We are starting out by providing some of the basic services necessary to build a better life, like water, roads and training,” said Ms. Stubbs. “And we are receiving reports indicating that we are succeeding. With the increased productivity that modern irrigation systems and improved market access can bring, the people in these communities are no longer going hungry and the children are able to go to school,” she said.

Since 1986, IFAD has provided $114 million in loans for eight projects in Guatemala. The projects have helped an estimated 120,000 households.