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Alternatives to Small-Stakeholder Farming

In many rural areas of the world, residents eke out a meager subsistence as small stakeholder farmers.  For example, in the Brazilian Amazon, many individuals support their families by raising manioc, a starchy root that is a local staple in the diet of residents of the region. However, growing manioc is very labor-intensive and generates very limited income for the amount of effort required to grow it. CEN helps small stakeholders like these to build sustainable livelihoods, such as producing agricultural products with higher value than traditional crops, value-added agriculture, services, and handicrafts. For example, through the Couro Ecológico project, we have helped residents convert sustainably harvested rubber latex into stylish women’s handbags that are being sold in boutiques in Brazil and other countries. 

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Livelihoods that offer individuals the means of securing the necessities of life for themselves and their families in an economically, ecologically and socially sustainable manner are crucial for eradicating poverty and powerlessness worldwide.

In many rural areas of the world, residents eke out a meager subsistence as small stakeholder farmers. Although viable opportunities for sustainable livelihoods exist, residents often lack the awareness and ability to take advantage of them. Due to economic and social vulnerability, many stakeholder farmers are often reluctant to embrace new opportunities with which they are not familiar and instead stick with what they know. Also, the perceived shortage of economic opportunities drives many youth to migrate from their rural homes to urban areas in order to secure jobs, draining the rural communities of their vitality and contributing to urban overcrowding.

Without assistance in building sustainable livelihoods, impoverished residents of rural areas will continue to face extreme poverty and hopelessness – and the cycle of poverty will be perpetuated.

How CEN Builds Sustainable Livelihoods

Infographic Build Sustainable Livelihoods no title

A key aspect of our approach to building sustainable livelihoods is to help residents understand and truly believe they have the ability to improve their lives. We provide residents with awareness of the potential opportunities available and the tools they need to evaluate and understand potential long-term impacts of these opportunities. In this way, residents are better able to make decisions for themselves. We help strengthen the core soft and entrepreneurial skills and mindsets that they need to succeed in building these livelihoods. Since employment opportunities in many impoverished communities are limited, residents must become entrepreneurs to take advantage of many opportunities. Thus, building entrepreneurial capacity is so vital. We also collaborate with local partners to provide effective services such as technical agricultural training and extension services in order to develop further agricultural and technical skills. In addition, we also provide our own entrepreneurship expertise in areas such as building markets and online commerce. For example, we have created an online shop to help Couro Ecológico and other artisans market their products to other countries.

We work with local and international nongovernmental organizations, businesses, government agencies and the communities themselves, to address systemic obstacles, including lack of electricity, transportation, and viable value chains. We help local communities become an integral partner in resolving these obstacles by completing projects that expand and improve electricity, information and communications technology, and transportation and build supply chains, markets and value chains. For example, the Banco da Mulher is a rotating savings fund that expands access to capital for members of a regional women’s association, which provides training and mentoring in entrepreneurship and vocational skills. CEN’s role in the project is to disseminate the best practices and issue a report to provide a model for CEN and other organizations to draw upon for future projects. Through this savings fund, many women have been able to start new businesses, generate more income and improve their livelihoods.

EixoForteFeb 13 tour Elise272Goal of Building Sustainable Livelihoods

When individuals are empowered by having the physical and mental tools they need, the knowledge of how to use these tools, and the awareness of opportunities that exist, and are not blocked by insurmountable systemic obstacles, they are able to improve their lives by building livelihoods that are economically viable and environmentally conscious over the long term. Building sustainable livelihoods helps to build healthy communities, retain youth in their home communities, and alleviate poverty.


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