‘This Helps You See Life Differently’: Evaluating Youth Development and Capability Expansion in Remote Communities of Honduras

 By Sara L. Wyngaarden

Many low- and middle-income countries are experiencing a “youth bulge”. In Honduras, for example, more than half of the population is younger than 25. In theory, this population could transform development outcomes in the country as they enter the work force, contribute to the local economy, and engage in social issues. In reality, development barriers impact whether youth choose to stay in Honduras and whether those who do stay are intellectually and emotionally prepared to work toward social transformation.

In rural areas of Honduras, youth face barriers to accessing basic education, vocational training, and social services that support their well-being and formative development. Agricultural livelihoods are threatened by the unpredictable realities of climate change. Alternative rural livelihoods are difficult to envision or establish. Young people who migrate from rural areas face other forms of livelihood insecurity as their own government struggles to address drug trafficking, gang violence, and one of the highest murder rates in the world while other governments build walls to keep them out.

In this context, a Honduran non-governmental organization called la Fundación para la Investigación Participativa con Agricultores de Honduras (FIPAH) has implemented youth-specific livelihood development programming in rural and remote communities of Honduras since 2000. Our study retrospectively evaluated the effectiveness and impact of FIPAH’s youth programming in the lives of youth participants across more than 18 years of implementation.

According to program participants, FIPAH’s program positively impacted rural Honduran youth in three main ways:

1.      Transformative participation: youth gained confidence and self-esteem by participating in the program, helping them become more active program participants and community members.

2.      Meaningful collaboration: within the structure of the program, youth worked together to make positive contributions to community development, developing skills, experience, and a reputation as community leaders.

3.      Low-risk experimentation: the program freely offered diverse learning opportunities to participants, creating a unique environment for youth to explore their interests and identify career aspirations and goals.

Our paper demonstrates how FIPAH’s program theory aligns with known development theories, including the Human Development and Capabilities Approach and Positive Youth Development. We provide evidence that these development theories can be effective and impactful in remote areas of Honduras, addressing a literature gap around the relevance of these theories to rural areas of low- and middle-income countries.

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