CRS’ agriculture and environment programs, like all our activities, are founded on the principles of Catholic social teaching. Programs aim to build the livelihoods of vulnerable people using sound science and by promoting “outside the box” innovation. The following guiding principles help us achieve these goals:
- Promoting Integral Human Development. The goal of all our work is Integral Human Development (IHD) for the poor. This framework assists us to design more comprehensive agricultural interventions that enable people to lead full and productive lives, meeting their basic physical needs while living with dignity in a just and peaceful environment.
- Targeting the most vulnerable. Women are a particular focus of CRS’ agricultural activities, as we aim to invest in activities that will promote increased participation and greater decision-making for women over agricultural production and assets. Interventions also focus on people living with chronic illnesses such as HIV, orphans and vulnerable children, urban or landless poor, and other vulnerable populations.
- Utilizing participatory methodologies. CRS agriculture programs build on local knowledge and practices, and include participatory approaches that ensure community ownership and sustainability. CRS’ agriculture and environment programming is founded on the active participation and input of beneficiaries and local partners.
- Promoting learning and innovation. In every region, CRS agriculture staff and partners begin with a fundamental learning question: What agricultural approaches or specific interventions have been most effective at or have shown the most promise for enabling the rural poor to move out of poverty? CRS collaborates with development practitioners and research institutions to design interventions built on lessons learned and local knowledge, and innovation.
- Using area-based targeting. CRS programs often target vulnerable people living within a defined geographical area, in order to facilitate impact measurement as well as the choice of appropriate agricultural interventions and partners. Given the vital role that water plays in agriculture, as well as its importance to food supply, nutrition, and the environment, watersheds are often used as the unit of intervention.
- Promoting market-oriented farming. Increasingly CRS assists farming families identify and access market opportunities for existing or new products. We advise farmers to conduct market assessments in order to make more informed decisions for on-farm and off-farm investments.
- Supporting farmer organizations. Farmers need to be better organized if they are to make economic headway in an ever more competitive marketplace. To compete, farmers need to understand basic principles of supply and demand, and other conditions such as quality, volume, price and frequency of supply, for them to move beyond simply trying to sell what they have produced.
- Promoting innovative microfinance approaches. Farmers often require loans or start-up grants to start new or expand existing businesses, and formal banking and traditional microfinance options are often not available. Savings-led financial systems enable farmers to build their own financial resources and invest in new ventures.