In the Western highlands of Honduras, achieving the basic necessities in life is a challenge. This area is known as the Lenca Corridor, named after the indigenous group that inhabits its rugged mountains, primarily in the departments of La Paz, Intibucá and Lempira. The Lenca are an indigenous minority and have an estimated population of 100,000 people in Honduras. During the Spanish conquest, the Lenca resisted colonization and fought a decade-long war until their leader was assassinated. This warrior’s name would become the currency of present-day Honduras, the Lempira. In spite of Lempira’s heroic legacy, the Lenca remain marginalized in a predominately mestizo country. It is no coincidence that the poorest departments of Honduras are located in the Lenca Corridor.
Adelante currently serves the Lenca Corridor with microcredit through its branch office in La Esperanza, Intibucá. Many of its clients are Lencan women whose struggles to improve their quality of life are illustrative of the region. Maria Sabina has been a client with Adelante for the past two years, and is currently paying back a loan for L 6300 or $332. Akin to many Lencan households, Sabina’s family relies on agriculture for subsistence and also to earn cash. Owing to the cool climate, they not only cultivate corn and beans, but also potatoes and other vegetables too. Sabina travels over an hour by bus to the market in La Esperanza in order to sell their surplus. When the family’s plot of land is not producing, Sabina also bakes and sells bread to supplement her family’s income. During the rainy season, roads deteriorate and often the bus can not reach Sabina’s distant community, so she has to walk several kilometers until she can catch the bus. The rural villages that dot the slopes of the Lenca Corridor commonly lack basic infrastructure, such as roads, electricity and running water. Sabina’s community is no exception.
Sabina and her husband have six children, ranging in ages from a 1 year old baby to a 17 year old son. Of her six children, three attend a local primary school, but her two teenagers must help out to support the household. On most occasions, Sabina’s 13 year old daughter accompanies her to the market in La Esperanza. Affording a secondary school education for their children is a challenge for most Lencan families. Sabina’s small business ventures have lifted the family out of extreme poverty, but she will not be sending her daughter to secondary school this year. Sabina hopes that as her business grows in the future, she will have the income to offer her children a better education.
As part of an effort to alleviate extreme poverty in the Lenca Corridor, Adelante has included topics on agriculture in our series of Product Innovation Workshops in 2012. Clients like Sabina learn how to improve production and increase profits from agricultural activities. Other workshops on crafts and food preparation also allow Lencan women to diversify their businesses in order to enhance household income.
Maria Rosario, a long-time client who also sells vegetables in La Esperanza, attended a flower-making workshop in February. Rosario brought along her 12-year old daughter to the event, commenting, ¨It’s good that she came because she can make these products too, it’s important since she will soon be finishing primary school and if she wants to keep studying she will have to work hard!¨ Like Sabina, Rosario has achieved a better standard of living for her family, but a secondary school education for her daughter remains out of reach. Fortunately, with the skills they have learned at the workshop, mother and daughter will be able to develop a new stream of income.
The poverty that pervades daily life for so many women and their families in the Lenca Corridor is one of the reasons why Adelante is keen to expand its operations in the region. Already 1,000 women and their families are climbing out of extreme poverty as a result of our microfinance-education program. We are excited to be expanding further with generous contributions from Women’s Empowerment International and the Rotary Foundation. Stay tuned to this blog to read more about how Adelante’s unique approach to microfinance is changing lives in the Lenca Corridor and across Honduras!