From distributing loans to helping small-scale farmers export their quality coffees to the States, Unión MicroFinanza is making a difference in the everyday lives of people here in La Unión. The assistance is visible, but one of the most interesting—and challenging—aspects of UMF’s efforts is to provide training via live seminars. I was lucky enough to attend one of these last week being spearheaded by USAID.
With the research I have been doing, I have come to terms with the fact that farming is far more complicated than one might initially imagine. Even the terminology (in English) is often beyond my comprehension. So, sitting through this seminar and listening to a USAID engineer explain best practices—in Spanish—I was thoroughly pleased to understand not only the vocabulary, but also the rationale of the material and the suggested methods for application. He made it simple enough, while emphasizing the technical aspects of each step. He asked the audience to consider practical ways to implement these methods in their own fields, and took everyone out to a model field to illustrate practicality and possibility of the instruction.
No single aspect of the assistance provided by UMF would be enough to make a significant difference. NGOs repeatedly fall short because they fail to root out the causes behind the social inequalities so prevalent in the developing world. There are many factors to consider, including culture, history, and available resources. Sadly, many organizations fail to take into account the sources of problems, but it is obvious that UMF is approaching the difficulties in Honduras with every tool available. Now, in coordinating our efforts with USAID, we have found another partner to assist us in striving toward our objectives.
When all is said and done, I can only hope that my work here leaves a lasting impact. It may be my optimism (or even slight naivety), but I feel like everything is falling into place with what I hope to accomplish. If farmers adopt these techniques, output could significantly increase and the impact of UMF loans will be amplified. Things can improve in La Unión, but the question remains: Will the producers break the cultural habits rooted by hundreds of years of familiarity and take the risk of implementing new methods?
By Josh Hall