Director of Diconsa, Juan Manuel Valle Pereña told Universidad de las Americas Puebla students that in 2014, out of the almost 120 million Mexican citizens, only 20 percent of the population could be considered not poor and not vulnerable. The other 80 percent of the population lives in varying degrees of poverty. Diconsa is a social program that was created to address the dietary and financial needs of the rural poor in Mexico who are considered the poorest of the 80 percent.
The 22,500 Diconsa stores in rural areas throughout Mexico, supply the rural poor with high nutritional value foods at low prices. The ultimate goal of Diconsa is to ensure that all the rural poor in Mexico are eating nutritious, varied and sufficient diets and that no community is being left behind.
El Debate reports that the organization did not allow the recent riots in Oaxaca to interfere with the delivery of food to some of the poorest communities of Mexico. Diconsa managed to distribute food to 100 percent of the people it serves in Oaxaca; no one was left behind even if rioters blocked the roads that led to them. They claim that in the Mulegé municipality of Baja California Sur, one of the most food insecure municipalities of the state, they have achieved complete coverage of communities in need. The aim is to accomplish 100 percent coverage in all the states of Mexico.
The success that Diconsa has had in delivering food to the most isolated areas has led to expanding activities including providing financial services to the rural poor in Mexico. According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “thousands of rural communities lack access to even basic financial services.”In the words of the organization’s director of commercialization, Diconsa stores already have “unparalleled coverage among rural communities,” they are perfectly placed to distribute social benefits payments and bi-monthly cash payments to the qualifying families that the stores already serve.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has already given the Diconsa program a $3.6 million grant because of all the benefits that a Diconsa financial network could have. Firstly, government grant beneficiaries would no longer have to travel long distances to distribution centers to receive their benefits. Rural families that are already struggling to make ends meet would therefore no longer have to cover the expense of traveling and missing a day of work; they would receive their payments in their own community Diconsa store.
With a Diconsa financial network the rural poor in Mexico could also, for the first time, gain access to basic financial services like savings accounts that will allow them to establish a financial foundation for the future. Helping Mexican rural communities build financial security today will also ensure that future generations begin life with more opportunities than their parents had. One step at a time, the poorest communities can rise out of poverty and develop financial independence.
In Mexico it is often the case that the best ideas and the best organizations become consumed by corruption. In isolated communities where Diconsa stores are run semi-independently by the community, lack of oversight could certainly lead to abuse and stealing. However, the Diconsa network has proven to be an honest organization that has met the nutritional needs of the poor for years. The hope is that Diconsa can operate as successfully as it has done in food distribution with financial services, as it has the potential to be a solution to the cycle of poverty in which the rural poor are trapped.
– Christina Egerstrom