In classrooms, not fields

Supporting CARE to help keep nearly 60,000 children in school and in celebrating International Women’s Day

March 2011 – A lack of notebooks and pencils threatened to keep 12-year-old Wilson Barreno Mejía of Huitán Quetzaltenango, Guatemala from going to school. He wanted to go, even when he was in pain and walking on crutches. He was injured when a sheep he was tending ran away, dragging him by a rope tied to his ankle. But, like 80 percent of poor families in Guatemala, Wilson’s mother could not afford school supplies for him and his younger sister.  

Cargill and CARE. In classrooms, not fields.A partnership between Cargill and CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, is providing Wilson, and thousands of other at-risk children like him in Honduras and Guatemala, with basic educational materials and nutritious school snacks. 

“Here in school Mr. Juan José teaches us a lot, his classes are very cheerful and we learn,” says Wilson. If they had not received notebooks and pencils from CARE with Cargill’s support, Wilson and his younger sister would be working with their mother, not attending school.

Rural Development Initiative, a growing partnership between Cargill and CARE

Now entering its third year, the Rural Development Initiative continues to grow. In 2010, Côte d’Ivoire and Egypt joined Brazil, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras and India as sites for the projects.

While programs vary by country, together the initiative provides training, skills-development, and market access for farmers (many of whom are woman); enhanced education and nutritional support for children; and access to social services like health care and potable drinking water for communities.

“These projects are great examples of how Cargill can use its global knowledge and experience to create benefits for communities and our businesses,” said Emery Koenig, Cargill senior vice president and CARE board member. “In Egypt, for instance, we are helping establish soybeans as a new crop. The community stands to gain higher incomes for farmers, while conserving water and restoring soil fertility, while Cargill strengthens its soy supply chain.” 

Initiative lives up to expectations

The US $10 million partnership seeks to help 100,000 people lift themselves out of poverty by 2013. To date, key outcomes for the seven countries, include:

  • More than 13,000 students at risk of becoming child laborers have graduated from primary school
  • Almost 60,000 additional children (more than half of whom are girls) are enrolled in Cargill-supported schools
  • More than 62,000 students participate in school lunch or other nutritional programs
  • Nearly 30,000 farmers have benefited from training and increased market access, with half of them increasing their production and sales
A better harvest

Alexander Cruz Quintero is one of the farmers benefiting from the training.  He and his wife, María, parents of seven children, live in El Bijagual, Santa Cruz de Yojoa, Honduras.  During the past 20 years, Quintero and his family never received any help with their farming efforts and struggled to feed themselves. 

Cargill and CARE. In classrooms, not fields.
Alexander Cruz Quintero benefited from the training.

Now, things are changing. CARE brought technical assistance and agricultural credit to help Quintero’s community improve farm productivity. “This year my harvest increased to five quintals (about 1,100 pounds) of beans on a quarter acre of land,” said Quintero. “Now, we have enough food for the family and we are also going to sell two quintals.” In addition, his two youngest daughters are able to attend the local school, where his third-grader receives a school snack as part of the Cargill and CARE partnership. 

Leading the way in project practices

An indication of the initiative’s progress is that many project practices have been adopted by government ministries and other partners.  “That demonstrates the leadership role that CARE and Cargill bring to lifting rural communities out of poverty,” concludes Marcela Hahn, CARE executive director of corporate partnerships.

In all seven countries, CARE partners with local Cargill teams to strengthen the project’s capacity. “This is not just altruism,” says Michelle Grogg, Cargill senior director of corporate contributions and partnerships. “We do this to sustain our business over the long term.  Our continued success depends on the growth and health of our communities.”