2008 Finalist Projects

Homegrown Heroes

Agriculture School - Paraguay

Escuela Agricola is a self-sufficient school that turns smallholders into success stories.

Paraguay is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Two-thirds of the land is in the hands of two percent of the population. The rest is shared out among the majority: the smallholder 'campesinos'. Martin Burt - a former mayor of the capital Asuncion - set up the Escuela Agricola to help these campesinos overturn decades of economic disadvantage. As Martin explains, "We target the poorest of the poor, and we aim to turn them from peasants into rural entrepreneurs."

Escuela Agricola teaches its students to make the most of their families' land through the latest organic techniques. It also teaches more general life skills such as literacy, numeracy and sexual health. The school is entirely self-sufficient, growing much of its own food and selling value-added products such as cheese and yoghurts. There's even a hotel on site where city folk can experience life in this rural idyll.

"City visitors see the students not as poor peasants but in an atmosphere of modernity, prosperity and wealth," says Martin. "For some reason the official curriculum of the ministry of education avoids how to teach kids how to earn money. We believe that teaching how to save, to invest and to earn money is very important in real life and this school teaches them that."

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