Agros Blog

Celebrating the Culmination of Two Years of Work with the World Bank in Chiapas, Mexico

Snapshot 2012-01-06 00-52-07After being recognized for our innovative work relieving rural poverty, I am excited to share that Agros has wrapped up a very successful two-year collaboration with the World Bank.  In 2008, Agros was selected along with 100 other winners from a pool of over 1,800 applicants to receive $200,000 from the World Bank Development Marketplace Competition – a competitive grant program that identifies and funds innovative, early-stage projects with high potential for development impact – to implement our project proposal.

Our project, “Land Ownership for the Rural Poor in Mexico,” was designed to purchase land for two rural farming communities in Mexico, and has since resulted – with support from other generous partnerships and foundations – in the formation of Santa Fe Ajké and Nueva Ilusión.  Not only was this a big step for our Mexico office, but it was also a huge achievement for Agros: our innovative model was recognized by a prestigious institution, and we benefited from the expertise and support of the World Bank staff that came alongside us for this project.

Through our partnership with the World Bank, Agros was able to expand to a new region in Chiapas, Mexico—the Guatemala border region in Comitán.  Chiapas is one of the poorest states in Mexico, and Comitán is infamous for ethnic and economic persecution of the vast number of Guatemalan refugees who fled there during the 36-year civil war that ended in 1996.

While visiting Comitán in 2007 in order to prepare for the establishment of Santa Fe Ajké, one man recounted to me the community’s 10-year struggle with the Mexican government to connect to a local water system. Instead of providing for the families’ basic need for water, politicians ignored the obvious urgent needs. Abandoned by both the Guatemalan and Mexican governments, one member said he felt as though the community was “not here nor there,” like citizens of neither country.

Thankfully, with the generous support of partners such as the World Bank, First Fruit Foundation, SG Foundation, and the individual networks that comprise the Santa Fe Ajké and Nueva Ilusión JWAV groups, several families from the group I visited in 2007 started the first Agros community in Comitán: Santa Fe Ajké.  From the beginning, the hard work of its community members has been evident in their motivation to continue despite two years of challenging weather, including drought and torrential rain.  For Nueva Ilusión it has been a long journey to find productive land at a reasonable price, but in June 2010 the land was finally purchased. These two communities have accomplished all of the goals set forth in the project agreement, including:

Santa Fe Ajké

  • Defined vision and values, plus a three year village development plan
  • Established seven distinct crops for food security and income generation
  • Built 20 houses and 20 latrines
  • Established a water distribution system
  • Received their promissory notes for their land loans

Nueva Ilusión

  • Defined their vision statement and new community name
  • Selected and purchased land
  • Defined vision and values, plus a three year village development plan
  • Established four distinct crops for food security, two which are sold for income generation
  • Built has 20 houses and 20 latrines

Looking ahead, Santa Fe and Nueva Ilusión still have critical steps to take that will create sustainable, long-term growth.  Though the work with the World Bank has ended, Agros will continue our work for several more years in each of these communities to ensure that they are on the path to land ownership and lasting success. You can follow these communities progress along their journey in the Village Updates by going to the Our Villages tab on our website. Thank you for your continued support!

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