• Awarded: 2005
  • Issue Areas: Economic Opportunity · Education · Secondary Education · Youth Job Skills
  • Region: Central America · Eastern and Southern Africa · South America · West and Central Africa
  • Web:
  • About the Organization

    Fundación Paraguaya is a self-sustaining, not-for-profit social enterprise, which since its foundation in 1985 has spearheaded microfinance and entrepreneurship in Paraguay.

    With more than 300 staff in 28 offices across the country, Fundación Paraguaya develops and implements practical, innovative, and sustainable solutions to eliminate poverty, in order to create decent conditions for all families, through four inter-related strategies.

    The first is a microcredit program, which serves more than 78,000 small and emerging micro-entrepreneurs who are largely ignored by other microfinance institutions.

    Fundación Paraguaya also runs an entrepreneurial and financial education program for children and youth, as well as a set of financially self-sustaining farming high schools that train the sons and daughters of poor farmers to become “rural entrepreneurs”.

    TeachAManToFish, a separate NGO established in London, helps spread the Fundación’s self-sufficient school model around the world.

    In the last three years, Fundación Paraguaya has enabled 16,000 families to overcome poverty.

    Young people from poor farm families cannot benefit from education removed from their daily lives, without opportunities to apply their learning productively.

    FP piloted “education that pays for itself” in residential facilities offering first-class education and farm enterprise experience .

    Martin Burt applies learning from microfinance to other areas of development, such as education, health, and housing.

    The school model is being replicated by more than 50 organizations in 27 countries.

    Ambition for Change

    Education that includes entrepreneurship training, together with microfinance programs, strengthens employment opportunities and income and enables the poor to drive their own change.

    Path to Scale

    Growth, and Independent Replication through Partnership

    Since achieving self sufficiency at the first agricultural school, FP has launched additional schools. Teach a Man to Fish, FP’s UK-based sister organization, disseminates the self-sufficient school model through its membership network. FP entrepreneurship and microfinance programs have experienced regular growth and influenced national poverty elimination policies.

    Business Model

    Schools are self-supporting through enterprise after a philanthropically and publically supported startup period.

    Martin Burt founded Fundación Paraguaya (the Paraguayan Foundation for Cooperation and Development) in 1985 after returning to Paraguay upon completion of his university studies in Spain and the United States. Its microcredit and entrepreneurship education programs were daring not just because the conventional wisdom of the time held that subsidy, not credit, was the way to help the poor, but also because Paraguay was still under dictatorial rule that forbade public gatherings. All FP’s self-help groups were infiltrated by the secret police, Martin jokes, but after a few meetings, even the police would be asking, “my wife is a seamstress, can she get a loan?” Through personal courage and a constant balancing act to operate and exercise leadership under difficult and dangerous circumstances, the groups provided real benefits, and Fundación Paraguaya survived to support thousands of small businesses and become a leader in microenterprise development as Paraguay transitioned to democracy. At the time of the Award, FP had supported more than 68,000 microentrepreneurs who had created some 40,000 jobs. It was piloting “education that pays for itself,” through its San Francisco Agricultural High School. The residential facility offers first-class education and practical farm enterprise. Its market-based curriculum covers 100 percent of the school’s expenses through on-campus farm business activities. Graduates are eligible for loans to launch their own farm enterprises and put learning into practice.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • FP is currently working with 90,000 clients each year, two-thirds through its microfinance program and one-third through youth entrepreneurship and education programs.
    • The school model is being replicated by more than 50 organizations in 27 countries.
    • Teach a Man to Fish has more than 4,500 members from 125 countries, whose work benefits 23 million people.
    • FP’s microfinance program has evolved to a “Total Poverty Elimination” program, developing new tools such as the “Poverty Stoplight” assessment system. The Stoplight has been incorporated into Paraguay’s national policies, and launched via partnerships in 21 other countries.


    Jimena VallejosPoverty Stoplight Coordinator, Fundación Paraguaya
    Julia CorvalanCountry Manager, Tanzania, Fundación Paraguaya

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