SEATTLE — The Central American country of Honduras is home to nine million people and surrounded by blue Caribbean waters. However, life in the country is far from idyllic. Poverty, hunger and inequality run rampant. It is vital that existing development projects in Honduras pave the way to a more just and equal country.
In April 2015, the U.S. and Honduras signed an agreement to promote further development of the country’s agricultural landscape. This agreement resulted in nearly 50 trillion tons of corn and soybean meal provided by the U.S. to the Honduran government. After selling the U.S. goods, Honduras used the proceeds to promote marketing training to local farmers and improve productivity. It also strove to promote trade both within and outside Honduras.
At the time of the agreement, U.S. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden praised the deal: “The Food for Progress Program is a cornerstone in USDA’s efforts to support sustainable agricultural production in developing nations and promote agricultural trade… I am proud that our cooperative efforts are building a stronger agricultural sector, creating new opportunities and better lives for the people of Honduras.” For a country in which poverty is an all-too-common way of life, the promotion of agriculture by the U.S. government goes a long way to benefit farmers, small business owners and people living in rural areas of Honduras.
In 2014, Honduras reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund for approximate $460 million to improve its infrastructure. Notably, the funds served to complete a major trade canal between Honduran islands and upgrading Puerto Cortes, the country’s main seaport. The funds also served as a stimulant to the economy by creating jobs and social programs. Strengthening the country’s infrastructure through these means is a good way to implement other development projects in Honduras.
Poor development among countries is often reflected by a poor educational system. Honduras is, unfortunately, no exception to this rule. High dropout rates, low test scores and a lack of continuing education programs are familiar to Honduran children. Seeing a need, USAID is working alongside Honduras’ Ministry of Education to implement vocational programs in addition to better teacher training and improving programs already in place. While primary school is free and compulsory, secondary school is highly underutilized. Combined, USAID and the Honduras Ministry of Education can put the tools in place to drastically change this dynamic.
Access to clean drinking water and sanitation has been a ubiquitous struggle in Honduran life. Pollution and lack of improvement to waterways have contributed to poverty and disease in the country. Through larger efforts by the Honduran government and the World Bank, combined with grassroots efforts by organizations such as water.org, access to clean water has risen by an incredible degree. To drive this point home, in 2015 Honduras met the goal to provide clean drinking and sanitation water set by the Millennium Development Goals, one of the few Latin American countries to do so.
Central America has the highest crime rates in the world. Crime against tourists and humanitarian groups has prevented development projects in Honduras from reaching their full potential. While it is difficult to quantify, Vanderbilt University undertook a three-year study to evaluate crime in Central American countries and explored USAID efforts to reduce crime rates through community outreach and service programs, better security and lighting, identification of criminal hotbeds and better promotion of law enforcement and public relations. The findings were encouraging. Over 50 percent of people reported a lack of awareness of murder and blackmail. There were fewer burglaries and public drug trading was down. More people began trusting the police.
By increasing prevention efforts and community outreach programs, USAID and Honduras can continue this pattern of improvement. Doing so will encourage humanitarian group efforts to continue development in Honduras and other Central American countries.
Obstacles remain, but development projects in Honduras have resulted in steady improvement throughout the country. The U.S. should redouble its efforts to promote stability in the Central American country, particularly regarding its exorbitant crime rates. Doing so will encourage collaborative ventures to improve all aspects of Honduran life.
– Eric Paulsen