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At Agros, we employ a participatory model, which means that families are directly involved as key stakeholders in every stage of the community. Over years of working with communities throughout Central America and Mexico, we have learned that families must own the development process. We exercise our role as facilitators to enable people to strengthen their assets—physical, social, financial, spiritual—and at the same time encourage full participation in all aspects of community life.

Families in our communities organize themselves voluntarily, and choose their own leaders to guide local development. Women serve alongside men in the local governance structure, working together to make decisions about how the community will be run, grow, and serve the resident households. Agros supports the community by helping to build the capacity of community members and local organizations in areas such as management, leadership, planning, conflict resolution, and negotiation, thus providing a foundation for development, empowerment, and social equity.

Our experience shows that households with greater participation of women in the community and family life are more stable, have higher repayment rates on loans and productive credits, are more resilient, and have children who are more likely to flourish. But it takes time for women to reach this level of participation. Many are very shy at the beginning, and both men and women in the community are often accustomed to traditional gender roles in which the men make all decisions and the women are very passive. As women participate in our programs, they improve their self-esteem, more readily give their opinions in public meetings, are appointed to leadership and governance positions, and make decisions about how to use resources while also engaging in both house and field work. This is an incredibly important and critical transition.

Communities thrive when the families who share them participate fully and take advantage of the resources available to them. Over time, we’ve seen the people in our communities thrive, gain confidence and knowledge, and gain the capacity to plan for the future of their children. What an enormous blessing to be a part of this remarkable transformation.