Development Program Helps Young People Learn Skills, Strengthens Local Communities
The rural setting and dearth of available farmland inhibit livelihood opportunities, and historically the central government has offered little support. In addition, violence from illicit activities near the border with Brazil negatively impacts the communities in the northern region.
Many youth are forced to migrate to cities to find jobs as low-paid day laborers, leaving behind an aging population and contributing to local instability.
Carpentry Association Creates Local Jobs for Youth
The municipality of Belen in the Department of Concepcion is one of the communities confronting these obstacles.
Resident Bernardo Cabo says that he—like other youth in Belen—faced the hard choice of going to another city to earn money because he didn’t have land to farm like his parents.
Instead, in 2008 he decided to start a youth carpentry association to generate employment for local youths and himself. The association received some initial support from the Paraguayan government’s employment development agency and the local municipality. However, the youths who joined were only able to do sporadic, simple carpentry jobs, like making beams and braces, because they only had basic tools and training.
Their dream of a well-equipped, full-service association of young carpentry professionals remained elusive.
Equipment, Training Helps Youths Take Association to Next Level
In 2010 ACDI/VOCA technician Eduardo Aponte traveled to the Department of Concepcion to meet with local municipal officials as part of ACDI/VOCA’s USAID-funded North Zone Initiative, or Iniciativa Zona Norte (IZN) as it is known locally.
IZN was a new USAID-funded program with the goals of strengthening local governance in Paraguay’s northern regions and promoting economic development to encourage licit livelihoods and mitigate violence. The local municipality identified the Belen youth carpentry association as a good partner for the program.
After meeting with Cabo and the other members to identify needs, IZN donated equipment, including tabletop saws, hammers, etc., that the youth association needed to raise the quality of their work. In partnership with the initiative, the local municipality donated money for the construction of a small building to store their equipment and protect it from theft. The department governor was also instrumental in bringing two more lines of electricity to the remote area to ensure that there was enough electricity to operate the equipment.
In addition to equipment, IZN provided technical assistance on marketing and how to organize as an enterprise. With the training and the new equipment, the association now produces chairs and other higher-value products.
“It’s not just the equipment we received, it’s also the training that opened the eyes of the youth here,” says Cabo. “That is where the biggest change was—in the training we received.”
IZN and the government helped the youth to connect with a local professional-level association for carpentry, which has provided budgeting training and helped with product designs.
Members Look to Expand
The association now has 10 regular members with others participating when more work is available. Cabo hopes to grow the association’s membership now that there is better equipment and training.
“Our goal now is to bring in more youth members to train them,” says Cabo. “We also now want to do a higher quality of furniture.”
The future looks brighter for the members who now practice a skilled trade that provides a decent livelihood for themselves and their families.
“I like working in the association because I want to learn a trade,” says association member Roberto Gomez.
“We are deeply grateful to USAID for providing many youth in this area with the opportunity to have a decent job,” says Cabo.
Pictured at top left: Bernardo Cabo assembles furniture at the youth association's building site in Belen, Department of Concepcion, Paraguay.