Change Yourself…Change The World.


The Agricultural School
October 13, 2009, 4:44 pm
Filed under: Paraguay

Fundación Paraguaya, the NGO that I am currently interning with, is not just an NGO for micro-finance. They are an NGO that teaches entrepreneurial skills- whether through micro-finance, through their junior achievement program (economics classes to high school students), or through their self-sustainable agricultural school.

While Fundación Paraguaya spends most of its energy and resources on the micro-finance department, I secretly think that they are most proud of their agricultural school. I think they certainly should be, since personally I think it’s the greatest thing they have. There is an entire other NGO (Teach A Man To Fish) dedicated to promoting Fundación Paraguaya’s self-sustainable agricultural school to other organizations all around the world, because it has been so successful. Last week I went to visit the agricultural school and it was quite an enlightening experience.

First off, what does ‘self-sustainable’ mean? Basically, it means that the school funds itself. It is not run through donations or tuition, but from the products that the school produces. Students only pay a low monthly fee of $10 to attend the school, where they learn about running a farm, tending to animals, the Paraguayan school curriculum, and most importantly, business. Fundación Paraguaya believes that it’s not merely enough to teach a student to grow tomatoes- you have to teach them how to sell the tomatoes they’ve grown. While students spend a lot of their time out in the field planting and harvesting all kinds of fruits and vegetables (lettuce, cucumber, eggplant, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, sugarcane, peanuts, the list goes on), tending to livestock (chickens, goats, cows, horses, pigs), making cheese or yogurt (from their own animals), collecting eggs (from their chickens), making honey (from their beehives), and so on, they are also going to school and learning about the market place, how to run a business sufficiently, and what sells in which places. To me, this is the most important education a budding farmer can learn. It is amazing that these kids can learn so much at this school for such a low fee, and then afterwards they can go to a university, or go back to their family’s farm and teach them how to run their family business more efficiently.

The school is self-sufficient in the way that all of the fruits, vegetables, cheese, eggs, etc. are sold to the local markets. Students drive to Asunción (the capital of Paraguay, an hour away) every week to sell in the market, and sell door to door. There are 19 businesses that make the school self-sufficient- it pays for the student’s tuition, the teacher’s salaries, the upkeep of the school, and the tools required. They have figured all of this out in under seven years. That is unbelievable.

And what is even more shocking, is that the farm is completely organic. To be a self-sufficient agricultural school is one thing- to be a self-sufficient organic school is entirely more challenging. Growing organic food is much harder because many pesticides protect insects from eating the vegetables (specially trained teachers have learned methods on how to combat this organically), and non-organic food has such a higher yield because of genetically-grown food. It is truly amazing what they have done here. I was blown away. Moreover, the education that these kids are getting is amazing- they are learning an important trade for their country, learning how to sell it and start their own businesses, and are given the opportunity to go onto higher education after they graduate.

I have felt such a tug-of-war with micro-finance because of the issue of debt. Yes, loans give people options. It allows them to start businesses and flourish when otherwise they couldn’t. It is empowering instead of a handout. But a self-sustainable program? That is taking all of the nonsense of loans out of it, while still be empowering.

All of this realization makes me want to say FORGET about micro-finance. Self-sustainability is definitely the way to go. And most fortunately, I have found a budding new NGO in California that is all about self-sustainability, HIRING, and they are about to skyrocket across the world.

Escuela Agricola

Here is to new opportunities, new adventures, new realizations, and new hope,

Brittany


1 Comment so far
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wow.. reached here through your note at acumen’s group. surely interesting but i wonder if it could be truly replicated at other places easily.. the agricultural practices, markets and cropping etc are so diverse across geographies.

Comment by Favad




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