By Megan Cassidy
In early June, the Honduras Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation hosted Glenn Denning, Gordon McCord and me to explore a partnership for the design of an integrated rural development project in several regions of the country. Over the course of our visit, what started as a municipal-level, “Millennium Village” style development plan quickly grew into a broader regional project which builds on the government’s existing Model Region Initiative.
The objective of the government’s Model Region Initiative, announced in early 2012, is to develop a process for identifying the barriers to well-being and economic development and to tailor programs and interventions to address those challenges at the regional level. The project takes a regional level approach, starting with the second poorest part of the country, Golfo de Fonseca. The goal is to define a process that is transferrable to other regions. The Golfo de Fonseca has a population of approximately 750,000 people and is widely considered as an “aid orphan.” It is a high-poverty region that has been under-resourced and somewhat overlooked by the donor community in favor of the western part of the country, which has higher levels of poverty.
Together with the government, the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development and our colleagues across The Earth Institute will assess the social and physical infrastructure, and design a sustainable development plan that tackles agriculture, education, health, energy, climate change mitigation and business development, in order to address the root causes of poverty in Golfo de Fonseca.
Our visit to the country involved a number of meetings with the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and the Ministry of Social Development to discuss: current priorities around sustainable development, the existing barriers to achieving those objectives, and the potential role of The Earth Institute in bridging that gap. We then took to the field, visiting a rural community in Choluteca, a district in Golfo de Fonseca.
In our conversations with community members at a school and in visits to local farms, the community’s desire for three things immediately became clear: change, accountability and a clear path for long-term growth. To make this a reality, the community will need practical tools like simple climate forecasting technology, technical support in implementing high-yield agriculture initiatives, and access to services like maternal healthcare and quality education.
Our visit closed with a roundtable discussion with the regional development banks, bilateral and multilateral organizations, local universities, government ministries and U.N. agencies, all of whom are invested in building the partnerships necessary to ensure the success of a collaborative project. Each step of our engagement with the Honduran government has demonstrated their clear dedication to finding measurable and sustainable solutions that can be expanded to other areas.
In subsequent meetings with the minister, the scope of our work has taken shape, with a focus on building a regional model for integrated, sustainable development in Golfo de Fonseca that involves three stages:
- A thorough diagnosis of the development challenges of the region, using innovative quantitative and qualitative tools. A team of researchers from The Earth Institute will design a comprehensive infrastructure and facilities assessment to collect geospatially referenced baseline data on roads, water, energy systems, and health and education facilities. This spatial analysis will be paired with quantitative, sector-specific analyses.
- Building out a targeted course of action. Using the data gathered and analyzed through this diagnosis, the Earth Institute team will develop an integrated plan for one high-poverty target region that will help the government identify regional development priorities and build targeted programs for the greatest impact.
- Using the experience of the regional program, the goal will be to build a model that can be translated elsewhere in Honduras, addressing both the common and unique challenges facing other regions throughout the country.
Megan Cassidy is a program manager at the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development. Glenn Denning is the center’s director, and Gordon McCord its director of economic development.