Partnerships for pandemic support in Paraguay

18 June 2020

Following the mandatory lockdown in Paraguay, indigenous people in Central Chaco were unable to work or buy food outside their communities. This left them without an income and without food, since most of the crops for their own consumption have failed due to an early drought this year. Solidaridad and its partners in Central Chaco coordinated efforts to alleviate this emergency.

Distribution of food supported farming communities during the COVID lockdown

RESILIENCE TO DROUGHTS

The “Chaco Sustentable” project works with three indigenous communities: El Estribo, Diez Leguas, and Novoctas, which joined in 2019. This adds a total of 1,068 families in Teniente Primero  Irala Fernández district. One of the project's objectives is to strengthen the capacity of these communities to cope with prolonged droughts, and to improve the speed of response of local institutions to the climatic emergencies that usually plague the area.

To this end, Solidaridad facilitated the creation of a Multi-stakeholder dialogue platform (MSP). Here, indigenous communities,  dairy cooperatives from the same area, and government actors, democratically establish an agenda of priorities and develop a shared vision and solutions for Adaptation and Mitigation to improve resilience to droughts and other climatic events affecting the landscape. Then, through an investment consortium, the Board  coordinates the contribution of each member to fulfill their common goals.

Farmers have been able to resume harvest with the delivery of inputs

Since its creation, the MSP has accomplished the following:

  • Two new water reservoirs were created, with a capacity of 18,000 cubic meters each, and a useful life of up to 25 years.

  • Eight school orchards were set to provide food security and showcase basic concepts of nutrition and sustainability to the children of the communities that attend the schools.

  • Some 75 hectares of consumer crops (beans, watermelon, corn, among others) are planted each year, which complement the diet of families during the dry months, between November and March. From the 299 producers who serve these crops, 64% are women.

  • Sesame  was introduced as an income crop among the communities, and in the case of Novoctas, it is the first time ever they are sowing this crop. With the proceeds they are able to purchase food and make building improvements in the communities. From the 319 existing sesame producers, 10% are female heads of household. Sesame has become a way for these women to earn a decent living and not to leave their families behind to work outside their community.

DROUGHT WORSENED BY PANDEMIC

One of the achievements in 2019 was increasing the area sown with sesame from 275 hectares to 500, to improve the incomes of the communities. However, due to the lockdown, the communities found themselves unable to harvest, as they needed to receive special inputs to store the grain for drying. On the other hand, in this situation, they couldn’t leave to work in other neighboring establishments as day laborers either.

Also, as the drought season started earlier than foreseen, much of what had been grown in school and community gardens to alleviate food shortages, was lost before it could be harvested and stored, as in previous years.

COORDINATING EMERGENCY EFFORTS

Food was delivered in 17 villages in El Estribo and Diez Leguas

While the national government struggled to bring food to these communities, the members of the MSP made an upfront investment in April to deliver food batches to 17 villages in the indigenous communities of El Estribo and Diez Leguas, until government supplies arrived. Also, now that the supplies already arrived, the communities have resumed their sesame harvest.

Thus, the MSP has successfully coordinated emergency work for two consecutive years,  gaining access to credits for the purchase of animal fodder, leading infrastructure works to clear flood-flooded roads, and providing supplies to replace crops damaged by floods or droughts. This reveals the potential of this type of public-private platform, where good communication between members is the cornerstone in project execution.

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