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United States Donating Agricultural Commodities to Guatemala

Published on 8 August, 2006, Last updated at 10:48 GMT

By Eric Green

Washington -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is donating 8,000 metric tons of soybean meal and 2,000 metric tons of tallow (animal fat) to Guatemala to help expand a micro-lending program in the Central American nation.

In an August 3 statement, the USDA said it will donate the agricultural goods for use in Guatemala through a Washington-based private voluntary organization called the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA).

FINCA will sell the soybean meal and tallow in Guatemala and use the proceeds from the sales for the organization's micro-lending program in Guatemala, called FINCA-Guatemala. Tallow is used to make soap, candles and lubricants, while soybean meal is used to upgrade livestock and poultry feed. Soybean meal also serves as a high-protein meat substitute in many food products, including baby foods.

A FINCA official in Guatemala said in an interview that his organization’s work includes helping over 15,000 women in different parts of that country with loans to start up small businesses dealing with processing locally produced agricultural commodities. Micro-lending involves providing small loans, often just a few hundred dollars, to budding entrepreneurs who are too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.

USDA's donation to FINCA will be made under the department's Food for Progress program. That program provides for USDA donations of agricultural commodities to needy countries to encourage economic or agricultural reforms that foster free enterprise. USDA said it expects to donate in 2006 about 560,000 tons of U.S. commodities to 28 countries under Food for Progress.

The donations made under Food for Progress are part of the Bush administration's ongoing efforts to promote economic growth and address global hunger. The USDA says the United States is the world's largest food aid donor and a leader in supporting market-oriented development.

Besides USDA's new donation to Guatemala, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided in November 2005 an additional $2 million in food aid to assist "food-insecure" communities affected by Hurricane Stan, which hit the country the previous month. The hurricane left a reported 337,000 people in Guatemala in need of food aid.

The funding was part of U.S. efforts to help Latin American victims of natural disasters -- including 14 hurricanes -- that hit the region in 2005. (See related article.)

Additional information on the Food for Progress program is available on the USDA Web site. For information on how U.S. foreign assistance is affecting lives, see Partnership for a Better Life.



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