In rural communities around the world, workers seek to make a living to support their families but face many challenges including insufficient wages and low productivity. In order to begin addressing these issues on a local level, Salesian missionaries in Paraguay have launched a new project to help reduce poverty among the rural populations they serve.
Because agriculture is the predominant industry in Paraguay -- in fact, nearly 50 percent of the population participates in farming and forestry activities -- the project focuses on improvements in that industry.
Described as “poverty reduction and sustainable improvement in the living conditions of producers and technical training of young people in the Caaguazú Department,” this new initiative is in direct response to a recent report by the International Labor Office. The report found that the agricultural sector suffers the highest incidence of workers’ rights violations, frequent accidents, work-related health problems and discrimination against workers.
“This means that rural areas of Paraguay lag behind in development,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “We therefore want to provide youth with new farming knowledge and skills so that they may build a good life for themselves, their families and their communities.”
The project is centered in Coronel Oviedo, a region in the east-central part of the country where Salesian missionaries have served since 1954. It provides young farmers with a basic education as well as access to advanced studies in modern farming practices and technologies. Not only do students participate in classroom studies, they also take part in hands-on agricultural and livestock training on a working farm at the Carlos Pfanni Salesian Institute located in town. Students explore new techniques in agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and animal husbandry -- with an eye toward improving farming efficiency over the long-term.
“The Salesian Institute trains thousands of students nationally,” says Fr. Mark, “and has always supported rural communities and smaller farms within the villages. With this new project, our missionaries feel highly engaged in Paraguay’s economic advancement.”
Staff at the school hope the agricultural degree program will entice more youth to choose farming as their profession. In doing so, they will gain the advanced skills and knowledge they need to positively change the trajectory of their lives and improve their communities.
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