Puente a la Salud Comunitaria
Context: Almost 60% of Oaxacans are under the age of 30. Yet due to a lack of educational and employment opportunities for youth, Oaxaca has the third highest rate of youth out-migration in the country. Rural schools fail to provide youth with the relevant education and practical skill set needed to develop businesses and seek opportunities in their local economies. Youth feel social pressure to migrate to cities in northern Mexico and the US to earn higher wages, not viewing local agricultural economies (the staple employment option of rural families) as a profitable livelihood.
Organization: Founded in 2003, Puente a la Salud Comunitaria (Puente) partners with youth, women, educational institutions, health workers, farmers, local authorities, and community groups from 20 rural communities in Oaxaca to improve food security and address malnutrition, using amaranth as an entry point to catalyze longer term processes of community development to improve living conditions and life prospects. Puente partners with high schools and a youth leadership school that trains youth in themes such as rural economies, leadership and communication, community assessment, project planning, gender, and sustainability. Youth are equipped with the skills to develop local sustainable agricultural projects and microenterprise businesses, enabling them to generate income locally so they no longer feel the need to migrate to cities. Puente’s work also includes a successful community radio program “A Taste of the Countryside” which discusses the themes above and youth’s role in rural development, currently reaching audiences of over 10,000 in Mexico City and Oaxaca with the potential for vast growth.
Current Grant: EMpower’s fifth grant to Puente will work with local rural high schools and a youth leadership school to continue educating youth on local food systems, agricultural value chains, and nutrition. Puente will assist teachers to integrate this information into their curriculum and conduct community workshops at schools to train youth leaders, as well as support practical fieldwork and projects by youth at local gardens and community kitchens. Students will present their findings to the larger student body and community members. Puente will work to increase public awareness and acceptance of youth projects and roles by involving key stakeholders (parents, teachers, farmers, community members) in the process. Several youth will be awarded scholarships to attend the youth leadership school, equipping them with the skills to develop sustainable agricultural projects and microenterprise businesses to generate income.