The Agricultural School San Francisco in Cerrito, Paraguayan Chaco – a region ofter referred to as “the green hell” – lies just an hour and half away from the traffic and smog of Asunción. The school, founded in 1964 by a group of german missionaries, host today about 150 boys and girls between 15 and 18 years old. They come from low income families all over Paraguay (as well as from neighboring countries). When Fundación Paraguay took over the administration of the school in 2003 the mission was to transform it in a self sufficient institution. After five years the dream came true and now the school is financially self sufficient. Every year 50 kids graduate with a Technical Agriculture-Livestock High School Degree. They do not learn just agriculture, as classes include also accounting, psychology, administration, computer science. For this reason some of them are been hired by Fundación Paraguaya as loan officers; today is not uncommon to meet some 18-19 years old loan officers recently graduated from one of the agricultural schools. A very important aspect is that the students learn how to become agrarian entrepreneurs and after finis
The infrastructures of the school include, a part from the classrooms, an hotel (from which a large part of the earnings of the school come from), a pigsty, a stable for cows, a hen-house, a fish farm, a dairy plant and of course – we are in Paraguay – soccer fields.
The dairy plant in particular, is a golosos (sweet tooth) paradise: the most successful products are dulce de leche, vanilla yogurt and jam, sold in the shop on the highway just outside the school, as well as in the agro-shopping market in Asunción.
The success of the self-sufficient agricultural school is leading to the replication of this model both in Paraguay, where two other schools are active, and abroad. There is a plan to implement a partnership that will bring students from Mali to study in Cerrito.