The Inter American bnk in Washington DC apporved funding for a one year UNIPOP project for community resource mapping and capacity building in three communities of African descendants in Central America. The following three Provinces were selected for this initial project - Colon in Panama; Bluefields in Nicaragua; and Limon in Costa Rica. Subsequently, similar projects will be developed in Belize, Honduras and Guatemala.
This project provides technical assistance and capacity building resources to enable the target communities and their leaders to assess their local demographic, social, environmental, culturaland economic assets with a view to identifying and prioritizing feasible economic projects that will generate increasedcommunity partnership and participation in enterprises that contribute to a reduction in unemployment and poverty.At the end of this project, participants will have completed a structured participatory community planning process that produces a master plan for each community, identifies local persons and groups to implement the projects identified and enables access by the projects to technology exchange, capacity building, investor-partner marriages, finance and markets.
The target population and the area of intervention
The project target populations consist of African descendants in the Provinces of Colon in Panama, Bluefields in Nicaragua and Limon in Costa Rica. These groups are endowed with a variety of untapped natural and human resources, but at the same time, they are challenged with conditions of unemployment, poverty,lack of opportunity, lack of structured action plans for community based participation,and unawareness of projected local, provincial, national and international sustainable economic activity.
A substantial portion of the People of African Descent in Central America and the Dominican Republic are unemployed and underemployed persons and are denied equal treatment for jobs in major sectors of the society. Yet in some provinces People of African descent are not without assets. Many of them own and/or occupy areas of land along the Coast of the Caribbean Sea which they have for decades utilized to engage in subsistence farming and in production of cultural products.
The subsistence production of these people is in danger of being wiped out by subsidized products from abroad, while locally, they are unaware of provincial and local opportunities for economic diversification, and/or are denied access to resources that would enable them to enhance their capacity to compete and/or increase their production of value added and non traditional products.
People of African and Indigenous Descent in Central America who attempt to obtain business loans from the banks are routinely turned down and/or offered outrageous terms that would make proposed business initiatives unfeasible. Because they perceive no opportunity for upward mobility as a possibility, some engage in self discrimination and therefore do not attempt to strive to participate.
This Project responds to the findings in the IDB (Building Opportunity for the Majority) document, “Even if the period of uninterrupted growth from 1960 to 1980 were included, there would still be no improvement in poverty or inequality despite a 95 percent real growth in per capita gross domestic product over the past 45 years. This lack of broad based growth manifests itself in social and economic exclusions. Typically exclusion refers to minority groups that are marginalized because of race, ethnicity, and gender.”
The development problem
It is within the previously describedcontext that the participants in this project respond to the need for peoples of African Descent in Central America to obtain tools that will enable their inclusion and increased participation in trade and economic development activity taking place and projected in their provinces, countries andthe Americas.
UNIPOP, the Central American Black Organization (ONECA) and the Southern Diaspora Research and Development Center have engaged in motivation and stimulation of community desire to participate in sustainable economic development leading to the eradication of poverty. The work has included pilot mapping of some of the immediate communities of African Descendants.
The previous work revealed that in order to receive favorable consideration by potential investor-partners and financing institutions, or for inclusion in government Provincial and National Plans, the community participants needed access to technology and capacity building that would enable them to create feasible economic projects that included consideration of the relationship of their efforts to opportunities in the province in which the community is found and in National economic plans.
The value-added of the project
This project will develop ongoing collaborative relationships between target community groups,a local community centered higher educational Institution and UNIPOP to create community master plans within the context of regional characteristics and resources, including specific projects that can be linked afterwards with organizations and peoples on a provincial, national, regional and international basis with fair, two-way trade applicability where possible,to produce benefits and jobs for poor peoples in the targeted regions.
This project will provide the technical assistance and capacity building needed to enable the target communities and their leaders to engage in assessing their local and provincial human, social, environmental, cultural and economic assets, and enable them to identify feasible economic projects that will generate increased community enterprise development activity that would contribute to a reduction in unemployment and poverty.
This project will identify and foster community ownership and participation in Enterprise Growth Initiatives that will help eradicate social inequality, poverty and race based exclusionary practices against African descendant populations in Central America.
The Project will produce deliverables that can serve as tools for increased participation of the target groups in existing and projected national, regional and international economic development initiatives.
By the end of this project, participants in each community will have been taken through a structured participatory community planning process which produces a master plan that includes a series of potential economic activities in which selected individuals and groups in the community can participate as owners, partners, operators and employees. In each of the processes, local persons with basic skills for implementing and/or participation in implementing the projects are identified and prepared for participation, and lessons learned in each of these efforts will create ongoing capability that can be replicated by the same community and in other provinces in the same country or in other countries.
The Quest (I Pilot Process for Community Participation in Sustainable Economic Development in Panama ) Published by Medgar Evers College CaribbeanResearch Center Press
“The Introduction to a New Paradigm for the Eradication of Poverty”
Fundacion Universidad Popular de Desarrollo Sostenible de Las Americas (UNIPOP) Calle 8A-E56, La Riviera de Don Bosco, Panama, Republica de Panama