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Rural Development

Rural women exhibit especially poor development indicators. Rural women participate much less in the labor force than rural men and their female urban counterparts. Rural women also tend to be entirely responsible for domestic work, unlike urban women. This, coupled with high fertility rates among rural women, often precludes women's engagement in productive activities. Limited access to land also continues to be a problem for women in rural areas of the region, even for women who are heads of household. This seriously affects women's ability to climb out of poverty, since land is an asset that serves as a means to credit and technical assistance. Through technical assistance to land administration, land reform, agricultural extension, natural resource management and infrastructure projects, the World Bank has sought to address gender inequities and biases in rural areas.

Rural Development: PROGENIAL- Program for Gender Innovation in Latin America

Since 2000, with grants from the Japanese and Dutch governments, the Gender Team has given technical assistance to mainstream gender in as many as 36 projects already in execution. Using this strategy, PROGENIAL, (Program for Gender Innovation in Latin America) has been able to build the capacity of Bank personnel and in-country project staff so that they can incorporate gender in their projects even when it was not a component in the project design. This more hands-on approach to learning about the value-added of mainstreaming gender aims to bridge the gap between analytical and operational work.

Currently, PROGENIAL gives technical assistance to 15 projects in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama in four main sectors: 1) social investment funds 2) health, 3) transport and roads, and 4) agriculture and land titling projects. Below are summaries of the projects and the technical assistance provided by PROGENIAL within each country.


Social Investment Fund- The objective of the Social Investment Fund has been to target investments to the poorest populations and contribute to participatory decision-making by strengthening the capacity of community-based organizations and local governments to define problems, prioritize needs, plan and implement small-scale community-based subprojects, and ensure sustainability by developing adequate maintenance systems. The project has financed: (a) high priority social and economic infrastructure selected by communities, such as schools, community stoves and latrines; (b) training and consultant assistance to support project sustainability; (c) strengthening of local organizations and governments. PROGENIAL's assistance has increased gender balance in community participation in the selection of community development projects, which resulted in better meeting the needs of the project's beneficiaries. In particular, women's participation in the identification of community priorities increased from 0% to 50%, and in the selection of community representatives from 0% to 40%.

Land Fund- The Land Fund assists the government of Guatemala to: (a) to establish a program to facilitate access to land for beneficiaries; (b) support beneficiaries to access technical assistance and financing for productive subprojects; and (c) improve the legal and institutional framework for land markets. The strategy has been to assign a finca to beneficiaries with the understanding that they must repay the debt with income made from productive subprojects on the land. In this project, PROGENIAL is improving women's ability to participate in income-generating activities by training the project's staff and service providers on how to meet women's technical assistance needs. Technical assistance needs were determined by a gender analysis completed and recorded in a Gender Equity Policy.

Reconstruction and Local Development Project- The objective of the Reconstruction and Local Development Project is to improve the living standards and sustainable self-development of the population of approximately 500,000, mostly indigenous people, living in extreme poverty in 16 municipalities in San Marcos and Huehuetenango, Guatemalathrough the transfer of financial and technical resources and resource management know-how to the beneficiaries. The project seeks to: (i) strengthen local community organizations and municipal governments; (ii) decentralize the allocation and management of (technical and financial) resources to the local level; and (iii) finance community-based, social and economic infrastructure and cultural heritage subprojects. PROGENIAL's work involves building the participation and leadership capacity of women in the community development planning committees to ensure that women's development needs are met. Achievements include gender-disaggregated statistics, which allow for improved capacity to evaluate the project's impact on beneficiaries and their gender-differentiated needs, and a mandated minimum of 2 females on community planning committees.

Rural and Main Roads Project- The main activities of the project are to improve paths, rural roads, secondary/departmental roads, and main roads; to develop institutional capacity at the local and national level for rural roads management stakeholder participation; and generate employment in rural areas by promoting spillover activities, such as contracting local companies to carry out the road rehabilitation and the formation of microenterprises to maintain the roads. The project ultimately reduces rural poverty and builds social cohesion by increasing rural access to markets, schools, health centers and other social and economic infrastructure. PROGENIAL is devising a strategy to increase women's participation in the microenterprise component of the project. So far, this has resulted in gender-disaggregated statistics to better understand the project's impact on beneficiaries and their gender-differentiated needs.

Land Administration Project-This project increases legal security of land tenure in indigenous and non-indigenous communities of Guatemala while strengthening the legal and institutional framework for land registry and cadastre services nationwide. The process is achieved with mechanisms for conflict mitigation and resolution. PROGENIAL's work has involved various strategies to increase women's access to information, ownership and use of land and access to credit as it relates to land titling. Such strategies included building the leadership capacity of women to allow for their effective participation in community land registry committees and facilitating women's acquisition of identification cards, which are required to be eligible for land registry. As a result, in the target areas, women's land ownership is as high as 45% compared to 8% in the country as a whole.


Social Investment Fund- The Honduras Social Investment Fund Project aims to: (a) increase small-scale social and economic infrastructure among the poor, in accordance with local development priorities as agreed upon by beneficiaries; (b) to develop social assistance programs for disadvantaged groups; and (c) to contribute to the prospects for sustainability of these investments through capacity building of local organizations. A special subcomponent, the Our Roots program, seeks to improve the living conditions and promote social capital in indigenous and Afro-Honduran communities by financing small-scale subprojects and using paid labor of community members. Through gender sensitivity training of project personnel, gender equitable participatory planning and project outreach, as well as design of income-generating projects especially for women, PROGENIAL is successfully mainstreaming gender in the entire Social Investment Fund institution. Evaluation of the Our Roots program showed that 45% of daily income from its microenterprises was generated by women, while qualitative analysis shows that before PROGENIAL's intervention, women's income from the microenterprises tended toward 0%.

Road Reconstruction and Improvement Project- By working closely with the Government of Honduras under the Hurricane Mitch National Reconstruction Plan and the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Housing, this project is: (a) restoring roads damaged by Hurricane Mitch; (b) improving trade corridors; and (c) establishing a sustainable and accountable financial and institutional set-up for the road subsector. PROGENIAL seeks to increase women's participation in the project's activities through training microenterprise promotion and supervision teams on the importance of gender equity in participation. This work is strengthened by gender-disaggregated statistics that allow for evaluation of the project's impact on men vs. on women and to meet gender-differentiated needs.

Access to Land Pilot Project- The goal of the Access to Land Pilot Project is to support the acquisition of land and the formation of sustainable farm enterprises by self-organized landless and land-poor peasant families. The pilot is testing a public/private partnership strategy, with the private sector lending for land purchase and the public sector funding complementary investment in income-generating subprojects on the land, and technical assistance to improve the productivity of the newly acquired properties. In this project as well, PROGENIAL promotes gender sensitivity training of personnel, gender equitable participatory planning, and an outreach campaign that solicits both men and women as participants.


Land Administration Project- The Land Administration Project's ensures equitable access to land and improves land tenure security, by providing land administration services in selected rural, peri-urban, and some urban areas. Land administration covers a range of land regularization activities including legal rights recognition, titling, conflict resolution, legal cadastre, and registry. In order to ensure equal access to land for women, especially in rural areas where land titling is not yet formalized, PROGENIAL provided the following technical assistance: (a) revision of the project's outreach and communication strategy, land administration manuals and land surveys to make sure its language and strategies targeted both men and women and trained project personnel and service providers; (b) training of technical staff and service providers of the project to apply the revised manuals and effectively mainstream gender in their work; and (c) revision of the monitoring and evaluation system so that indicators are disaggregated by gender.

Health Sector Reform Pilot Project- The project supports the government of Panama's goal to improve the health status of the Panamanian population. To achieve this goal, the project has set up a pilot health sector reform program that increases overall efficiency and effectiveness of the health system, while achieving equity of access and utilization of health services for all population groups, particularly the poor. Specific activities include increasing access and facilitating the utilization of health services, particularly of the poor, through the: (i) development and implementation of a user identification system/card; (ii) development and implementation of new community participatory mechanisms; (iii) implementation of a cost compensation system between the Ministry of Health and the Social Security System (CSS); and (iv) development of a cost-recovery scheme that adjusts by family income. PROGENIAL's technical assistance has resulted in the completion of a gender-disaggregated analysis of the main health issues in the pilot region; greater outreach to men and attention to their health needs, such as sexual and reproductive health issues and domestic violence as a mental health issue; and training of healthcare providers to build their understanding of the need for a gender-differentiated approach to healthcare.


Social Investment Fund Project- The project supports Nicaragua's poverty alleviation efforts by: (i) providing essential small-scale infrastructure, mainly in education, health, and water supply and sanitation, (ii) focusing on the poorest communities, and (iii) strengthening, on a pilot basis, municipal management which, in turn, should lead to more sustainable subprojects at the local level. Each of the activities involves a capacity-building component. The project's development objectives would be achieved through targeted investments and pilot approaches that (if successful) could be expanded, particularly dealing with rural water supply and the participation of women and indigenous peoples. Mainstreaming gender in this project has involved ensuring gender-equitable participation in subproject design, execution and maintenance to ensure that the priorities of both men and women are taken into account. Institutional support of these efforts are also strengthened by providing gender-sensitivity training to project staff, contractors and local leaders.

Agricultural Technology Project- The purpose of the Nicaragua Agricultural Technology Program is to increase agricultural productivity and family income of 110,000 small and medium-scale farm households through the generation/enhancement of an efficient, demand-driven, agricultural technology knowledge and innovation system. The program is currently in Phase I (2000-2004), system establishment, which involves: (a) initiating the reforms and guidelines necessary to strengthen the public institutions responsible for agricultural technology development; (b) setting up a competitive fund for agricultural services; (c) defining the new role for and reforming the Nicaragua Institute of Agricultural Technology; (d) defining a strategy for, and piloting an agricultural technical education & training system; and setting up an agricultural information system. In order to achieve a more balanced participation of women in agricultural activities, PROGENIAL has provided various types of support including: (a) the creation of gender disaggregated base-line data and indicators for the project; and (b) integrating a gender-sensitive approach to the rural development policy and strategy of Nicaragua; and (c) gender-sensitivity training for the staff of the Nicaraguan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Forestry. As a result, women's participation in agricultural extension has increased from 23% to 38%.

Land Administration Project- The long-term development objective of the Land Administration Project is to improve the security of land tenure in Nicaragua, where an estimated 61 percent of all properties lack proper documentation. To do this, the project regularizes property rights by establishing a secure and legitimate land rights regime and improving land administration services provision. This process will facilitate the elimination of overlapping land claims, pending legal revisions, extremely centralized and ineffective services delivery (i.e. titling, registration), land-related conflicts, non-sustainable land use patterns and other property problems. Ultimately, the project aims to: (i) boost investment in agriculture, leading to productivity and income growth; (ii) contribute to social fairness by focusing on the most vulnerable groups (small farmers and indigenous people); (iii) promote the sustainable use of natural resources; and (iv) increase revenue collection and facilitate planning at the municipal level, as a means to foster the decentralized provision of services. PROGENIAL is currently working with the project to adjust its strategies in order to achieve equal participation of men and women in the formulation, implementation, as well as equal benefits for men and women from policies, programs and activities in the project. PROGENIAL has also trained 35 of the project implementation unit's staff on gender mainstreaming in land administration projects.

Health Sector Modernization Project of Nicaragua- The Health Sector Modernization Program (HSMP), of which this project is the first phase, seeks to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and equity of the Nicaraguan health system by: (i) strengthening primary care and nutrition; (ii) modernizing the hospital network; (iii) developing the institutional capacity of the ministry of health; and (iv) supporting social security reform. To reach its goals, the program aims at implementing over a period of nine years (1998-2007) sector reforms and targeted investments through a phased approach, by expanding gradually and geographically some program activities to the whole country, and deepening and consolidating others. PROGENIAL's work in this project has focused on strengthening the maternal health centers, which have been key in reducing maternal mortality among its target populations. A key strategy in making the maternal health centers more effective has been promote outreach to the male partners of mothers to involve them in childcare, maternal health and family planning. Preliminary data in the municipality of San Carlos, indicates that the rate of births attended by health professional has increased by 48 percent since the maternal health centers have been in operation; and maternal mortality has decreased from 1000 per 6000 born alive to 374.

Road Maintenance Project- The Road Maintenance Project is helping to improve the efficiency of road transportation in Nicaragua. Specific objectives of the project are to (i) improve transportation infrastructure along the key international trunk road corridors; (ii) improve access to productive agricultural areas and to rural communities especially those located in Hurricane Mitch damaged regions; and (iii) help ensure the sustainability of the road improvements. PROGENIAL's goal in the project is to achieve a more balanced participation of women in rural road maintenance, which it is accomplishing by ensuring that capacity-building methodology of microenterprises is amenable to women's participation, and training project staff on gender equity.



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Last updated: 2009-08-10

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