Entrepreneurial Opportunities Network for Poor Families

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While Panama is experiencing steady economic and social development, the distribution of wealth and social services is highly polarized between urban and rural areas: over 66 per cent of the rural population lives in extreme poverty. A large majority of the rural population runs informal micro enterprises, but as a result of poor institutional environment for registering their businesses, limited access to resources and finance, and a general lack of business and management skills, they are unable to expand their operations and improve their livelihoods. The Government recognizes that unleashing the potential of these micro enterprises is key to overcome wider national inequalities as well as to foster the country’s future development and thus, it requested the assistance of the UN system.

Main Outcomes

Number of Beneficiaries: 787 (directly)/2190 (indirectly); 83 institutions (directly) -Oct 2011.

  • Improved raw material processing, product manufacturing and better working conditions for employees.
  • Improved business management, pricing and costing practices.
  • Improved public policies and access to the credit and other relevant goods and services
  • Over 20 micro-enterprise networks jointly undertaking business-related activities.
  • Market access for over 100 micro-enterprises.

Implementation Strategy

Funded by the Government of Spain’s MDG-F, in partnership with four other UN agencies, initiated a joint programme to reduce the current inequalities in the country by promoting entrepreneurial network opportunities within the handcraft, agricultural and tourism sectors in the four Panamanian provinces of Coclé, Herrera, Veraguas and Chiriquí. By promoting the development of micro enterprises, the project aims to reduce poverty among the country’s poorest. Special focus is on women.

Based on the general objective and expected results of the program, and according to the expertise of participating agencies, a series of trainings and initiatives focused on capacity building and transfer of technologies and methodologies were included in the programme’s annual work plans.


The focus of local development (tourism) was not clearly defined from the beginning of the programme. Had this been precise from the onset, the strategy for combining agency-specific techniques and adapting them to a joint programme context would have been more clearly defined and easier to implement.

The multi-sectoral approach has been most effective in areas such as handicrafts, while the agricultural arm of the project, given the specificities and details of the accompaniment, has been more difficult to merge with other sectors. Moreover, given the “response time” to measure results in the agriculture sector –relatively slower than other sectors, made it difficult to quantify by the end of a three-year programme the potential reduction of poverty and improvement of quality of life in the beneficiaries of all areas and sectors.

The lack of a single reporting cycle and format for the participating agencies and to a lesser extent the counterparts, was a cumbersome disadvantage for addressing certain challenges concerning the sound and efficient knowledge management of some activities.

Way Forward

In order to guarantee the sustainability of key initiatives, the programme has established strategic alliances with government counterparts at the national and local levels via memorandums of understanding and other formal, and sometimes informal, agreements.

Lessons Learnt

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