Access to Markets and Value Chains for Indigenous People in Paraguay

Key Contact
Maurizio Guadagni
Start Date
End Date
Funding Amount
$ 25,107
Knowledge-providing Countries
Knowledge-receiving Countries


The Government of Paraguay’s (GoP) National Development Plan (NDP) 2014-2030 focuses on eliminating extreme poverty. NDP includes the flagship program Sembrando Oportunidades (Sowing Opportunities) which seeks to increase income and access to social services for families living in situations of vulnerability. Although the program has yielded important results, the integration of indigenous rural farmers into regional and world value chains remains a challenge.                                                                                                                                 

The broad World Bank-financed US$137.5 million Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Development Project (PRODERS) addresses market and value chain access.  Through a community-driven approach, the project finances investment plans for farmers’ groups and indigenous communities and strengthens local capacities. Linked to this larger project, the World Bank used a South-South Facility grant to organize a knowledge exchange to help indigenous communities in Paraguay visit and learn how indigenous communities in the State of Santa Catarina, Brazil have made impressive progress in reducing poverty through improved rural competitiveness and access to markets.



The Government of Paraguay (GoP) has been implementing long-term programs to improve quality of life of the rural poor. The National Development Plan (NDP) 2014-2030 focuses on eliminating extreme poverty and promoting income growth for the bottom 40 percent, including measures to improve social safety nets and linking the country’s rural economy to regional and world value chains.

The GoP has dedicated considerable resources to improving quality of life for small-scale farmers and indigenous communities, including the World Bank-financed US$137.5 million Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Development Project (PRODERS). Two-thirds of Paraguay’s rural poor live off agriculture. PRODERS, implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, combines community organization, rural investment financing, and extension services activities. More than 50 indigenous communities in Paraguay received approximately US$3 million for rural investments in sub-projects benefiting about 1900 families in the Paraguay departments of San Pedro and Caaguazú. The World Bank allocated an additional US$100 million to the project to support portions of PODERS focused on rural business plans and strengthening the market orientation of farm investments. This additional financing extended the project’s geographic coverage to all rural areas of Paraguay, starting with the departments of Concepción (3.5% of indigenous people), Caazapá/Guaira (4.5% of indigenous people) and Canindeyú (21% of indigenous people); expanding rural investments to 130 additional indigenous communities

Despite these efforts, including rural indigenous people into value chains remains a challenge. While poverty rates have shown an important decline over the last 15 years, extreme poverty rates remain high among Indigenous populations. While PRODERS addresses poverty reduction and access to markets and value chains, building capacity through international knowledge exchanges is not eligible for funding under PRODERS. Yet, sharing knowledge on the commercialization of indigenous products and their integration into markets and value chains is valuable. Much of the knowledge needed for indigenous product commercialization is tacit, and therefore acquired mostly through learning-by-doing or transferred when experienced parties share their knowledge.

“Paraguay’s indigenous people tend to live in very isolated, remote areas with little access to roads, land, and even identification documents,” said Julia Navarro, an Agricultural Specialist with the World Bank’s Latin America region.  



The State of Santa Catarina, Brazil has made impressive progress in reducing poverty over the last decade. Some 20% of the state’s poor population of about 275,000 people live in rural areas, and they consist mainly of small farmer’s families (SFFs), rural workers, and indigenous people. The World Bank Santa Catarina Rural project targets the Kaingang, Xokleng, and Guarani indigenous communities in 13 villages and indigenous lands. A former World Bank project in the area, Microbacias 2, engaged with 1,850 indigenous families, a total of approximately 7,000 people. The project supported the creation of six publications and a DVD showcasing their culture and traditions, income practices, natural resources management, and housing improvement.

At the request of the Ministry of Agriculture of Paraguay, the World Bank organized a knowledge exchange to help the Guarani indigenous communities in Paraguay learn from the Guarani indigenous communities in Santa Catarina, Brazil. The project in Santa Catarina offered a number of features and a level of expertise that provided relevant and important lessons for indigenous beneficiaries in PRODERS. The South-South exchange aimed to enhance knowledge and skills of the Paraguayans to increase market access know-how, in alignment with Paraguay’s national development goals to assist small, indigenous farmers.

Preparation phase: The beginning of the knowledge exchange involved a preparation phase in Paraguay. A day-long preparatory workshop was organized by PRODERS to refine the purpose and activities of the exchange to best align with the indigenous peoples’ needs. Workshop participants included technical project staff, representatives from Indigenous Communities, and the National Indigenous Institute (INDI-  Instituto Paraguayo del Indígena). The World Bank team organized the exchange with the aim of ensuring the best combination of policy and technical knowledge and experience. The World Bank teams in Brazil and in Paraguay provided the background information on the region and the Santa Catarina project, and assisted in preparing a plan to meet Paraguayan national objectives.

A video-conference was also organized with the team members of Santa Catarina, including key staff from the World Bank responsible for providing implementation support, to discuss the knowledge/experience “gap analysis” and elaborate an agenda for the study tour. Moreover, the World Bank team conducted a baseline survey of result framework indicators.

Study Tour in Brazil: The main component of the knowledge exchange was a study tour for Paraguayan participants to visit the Santa Catarina Project in the State of Santa Catarina, Brazil on December 5-12, 2015. Participants included indigenous representatives from Guarani community, organizations from five different Paraguayan departments, technical representatives from INDI (Instituto Paraguayo del Indigena), as well as technical staff from the PRODERS. They learned first-hand from their Brazilian counterparts in the Iguazú, Chapecó, and Florianópolis indigenous communities in Santa Catarina.

The Brazilians, represented by the Agricultural Research and Rural Extension of Santa Catarina Enterprise (EPAGRI) shared their experience and lessons learned through hosting field visits to project sites. Site visits showcased projects at different stages of implementation, covering a diverse array of production systems such as milk, hydroponics, honey, citrus, medicinal plants, orchids, and crafts. Seeing projects in different stages of execution gave the Paraguayans a full picture of project development stages. In addition to field visits to project sites and markets, the Paraguayans participated in training activities related to market access and commercialization models. They participated in semi-structured learning activities, such as peer-to-peer knowledge exchanges on strengthening coalitions, enhancing networks, and formulating strategies. The group also participated in action-learning workshops in small focus groups and short presentations to develop more market-focused products.

After the exchange, PRODERS organized a dissemination and action planning workshop in Asuncion, Paraguay. The workshop focused on sharing practical lessons from the exchange with a wider group of partner organizations involved in poverty reduction for indigenous rural people. The workshops’ main focus was on developing a realistic capacity-building action plan for disseminating the major skills and knowledge acquired in Santa Catarina. This action plan was implemented through the PRODERS project.


Lessons Learned

The study tour was particularly successful because the knowledge exchange occurred between two indigenous communities of the same ethnic group divided by geopolitical borders. The World Bank can play an important role in facilitating this type of exchange to promote cultural understanding and recovery of the roots and ancestral knowledge of indigenous communities.

It is important to keep in mind that intensive preparation work is necessary when working with participants from indigenous communities for extensive travel, including in this case obtaining proper government identification cards for indigenous participants.


Beneficiaries / Participants

The exchange included:

  • Representatives of indigenous communities, staff from INDI (Instituto Paraguayo del Indigena) and technical staff of the Paraguayan Ministry of Agriculture who are based throughout Paraguay.
  • Representatives of indigenous population communities from the Paraguyan departments of Caaguazu, San Pedro, Caazapa, Canindeyu and Concepcion.
  • Leaders of the indigenous associations selected their representatives to attend the study tour in Brazil.
  • Technical staff from Paraguay’s Ministry of Agriculture responsible for rural development policies and programs.


Community of Indigenous Representatives

  • Mesa Cooridnadora de Canindeyú
  • CIPOC-Concepción
  • Mesa Coordinadora de Caaguazú
  • Secretario ACISPE - San Pedro
  • Asociación de Caazapá/Guairá


Positions Technical Representatives

  • Coord.Dptal. Caaguazu
  • Tecnico Caaguazú
  • Coord.Dptal. San Pedro
  • Coord. Interina/Asistente Técnica
  • Coord.Dptal. Caazapa/Guaira
  • Técnica Canindeyu
  • Coord.Dptal. Canindeyu
  • Técnico Guaira
  • Técnica San Pedro
  • Técnico San Pedro
  • Coord.Dptal. Concepción
  • Ténico Concepción
  • Abogada de la EI
  • Abogada de la EI
  • Técnico INDI
  • Tecnico Caazapa
  • Tecnica Caaguazú


World Bank Contribution

The World Bank is involved in a long-term engagement with Paraguay for rural development. This knowledge exchange supplemented the US$137.5 million Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Development Project (PRODERS, P088799) financed by the World Bank. The previous World Bank operation, Paraguay Poverty Reduction and Natural Resources Management (PARN) project in the Paraguayans departments of Alto Paraná and Itapúa Norte, was an extension and technical assistance program to improve communities’ production activities and to protect and conserve their natural resources. The current project began in 2007 and continues with the implementation of additional financing.  The project is expected to reach 50% of the Indigenous Population of Paraguay.  


Moving forward

The World Bank team will continue to follow-up over the coming years with the Ministry of Agriculture, implementation agency of PRODERS, and other institutions involved in the knowledge exchange to review how lessons learned are being applied in Paraguay.

The World Bank’s agricultural team hopes to leverage this approach and experience to continue investing in these communities, most likely through working with Paraguay’s Ministry of Agriculture and related agencies. The implementation of activities under PRODERS has been very effective and the expectation is that it will inform the design of future operations, both in Paraguay and beyond.



New knowledge: This exchange increased the knowledge of the participating individuals and their respective organizations about challenges and solutions for market access for indigenous peoples’ products. The beneficiaries particularly expressed gratitude to have learned about medicinal garden plots and medicinal varieties, and the development of marketable products from these varieties.  

“The exchange provided a unique opportunity for participants to learn about the continuum that takes place between the plot-level interventions and market opportunities. Learning about how these production systems are sustained by the research promoted by EPAGRI, offered a great example to learn from,” said Julia Navarro, Agricultural Specialist with the World Bank. 

Enhanced skills: Indigenous leaders improved understanding of their options and approaches to support productive livelihoods for indigenous households. They learned skills to evaluate and implement market access strategies. They also now share this knowledge with their communities.

New and improved actions: Representatives of indigenous communities and technical staff from the Paraguayan Ministry of Agriculture increased their participation in setting priorities for PRODERS through the development of the action plan after the exchange. The study tour not only built technical capacity but also helped policy makers to understand the full potential of these types of projects. Participants had the opportunity to learn from EPAGRI’s long engagement with indigenous populations, and how this engagement has yielded sustainable results in accessing local market opportunities.

Improved consensus: The commitment of political and social leaders strengthened, and communications between stakeholders improved, as the Paraguayan technical team from PRODERS and the Ministry of Agriculture interacted with indigenous people and EPAGRI. Studying the Santa Catarina Rural Program and participating in field visits together allowed participants to build on cooperation momentum. The exchange enhanced confidence and motivation to carry out such projects with better knowledge, motivation, and attitude.

Enhanced connectivity: Indigenous leaders were extremely grateful for the opportunity to meet with other indigenous Guarani communities in a different country. Once returning to Paraguay, they were able to report back and debrief their communities on the experience. The contact between the two Guaraní groups was distinguished and highlighted as one of most memorable experiences of the whole exchange.

“This knowledge exchange maintained and strengthened the Guaraní culture, it was possible to appreciate speaking in Guaraní, the Mbya reko, the Opy, the songs and dances” said Soledad Dominguez, a Departmental Coordinator for the Indigenous Strategy of PRODERS.



Paraguay: Instituto Paraguayo del Indigena (INDI), Paraguayan Ministry of Agriculture, indigenous community representatives.

Brazil: Government of the Santa Catarina State, Secretary of State for Agriculture and FisheriesAgricultural Research and Rural Extension of Santa Catarina Enterprise (EPAGRI).