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Battling Rural Poverty, Fundraiser Helps Native Farmers in Latin America

Native farmers from three Latin American countries will benefit from a special fundraiser this week in Washington, DC.
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Native farmers from three Latin American countries will benefit from a special fundraiser this week in Washington, D.C.

The non-profit Strategies for International Development (SID) will be selling tickets and holding a silent auction at the upcoming event entitled “Celebrate The Success of Native American Farmers in Guatemala, Bolivia and Peru” to be held at the Naval Lodge Building in downtown Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, June 10 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

According to the agency’s Mission Statement SID works with indigenous farmers in the three countries to help them “meet and negotiate with buyers, make business plans, and increase productivity and product quality in response to opportunities of their market…also organize best practices workshops with other NGO’s in each region…”

The agency’s mission statement also notes that 75 percent of world poverty is rural poverty and the three countries with the greatest number of rural poor in Central and South America are Guatemala, Bolivia and Peru.

“We work in the three countries in Central and South America where Native Americans comprise the majority or near-majority of the population – Mayans in Guatemala (55 percent), and Quechua and Aymara in Perú (47 percent) and Bolivia (71 percent),” said Charles A. Patterson, SID’s Executive Director.

“The Native Americans were suppressed throughout the colonial and post-colonial periods, and they provided the forced labor on large plantations. They comprise the great majority of the rural population today, the great majority of the rural poor, and they are all small farmers with small amounts of land,” he said.

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Patterson asserted that while SID respects and help farmers maintain traditional farming practices that continue to work, their outreach staff, which is entirely Native, also emphasize changing over to more modern methods that have proven effective.

He noted that much of the original farmland still in Native hands is eroded, and that farmers often work on marginal lands such as hillsides in Guatemala and semi-arid plains in Peru and Bolivia. There is a strong need to reclaim the land and change methods for fallowing and other tasks.

The funds raised in this week’s event will be used for new and existing programs.

“The funds will be used for starting a new program area in Guatemala, where Mayan coffee farmers were severely affected by an outbreak of coffee leaf rust and for continuing our work with dairy farmers (mostly women) in Peru,” Patterson stated.

Previous funding initiatives have helped small farmers throughout the three countries according to the SID site (known as sidworld), which includes case histories of Native men and women farmers who have increased their productivity and income due to the help provided by the programs.

Courtesy SIDworld.org

The funds raised in this week’s event will be used for new and existing programs. Indigenous in Bolivia are seen digging a farming pond.