Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras)

The thematic priorities of Swiss development cooperation in Central America are the promotion of economic development, strengthening local governments and the rule of law, as well as developing measures to adjust to climate change and reduce natural risks related to it. Swiss bilateral cooperation in the region focuses on Honduras and Nicaragua. The SDC also supports regional initiatives within the framework of its thematic priorities.

Map of the region Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras)

Nicaragua and Honduras are the poorest countries in the region and the challenges in these countries are varied: Nicaragua has relatively stable institutions and is showing progress in reducing rural poverty. In Honduras, however, the fight against poverty has stagnated; its institutions are weak and the security situation is very high risk even by regional comparison. In Honduras, the SDC has been more active since 2013 in violence prevention and strengthening human rights. The region is also menaced by hurricanes and irregular rainfall – factors that are becoming more pronounced with climate change. For this reason, the SDC combines its efforts in disaster risk reduction (DRR) with measures to adjust to climate change.

Economic development

Strengthening small enterprises

Small businesses are the backbone of the local economy. In Central America the SDC is promoting rural value added chains in coffee, cocoa, maize, beans and honey production, agritourism and in other sectors. Small farmers and rural businesses can raise their incomes through working in cooperatives, improving product quality and through marketing activities. Switzerland is also supporting efforts to improve economic conditions for small producers, for example through supporting the responsible government ministries in the development and implementation of national promotion policies.

Vocational education and training for young people

Low-threshold vocational education and training courses help make young people from poor urban neighbourhoods and rural areas more employable. In Honduras these courses target young people living in neighbourhoods with high crime rates; they also contribute to preventing violence.

Basic education and vocational training

Private Sector Development and financial services


Strengthening municipal authorities

As a result of the state decentralisation policies, municipal authorities are receiving additional budget funding but at the same time are being given additional tasks. The SDC is supporting 20 rural municipalities in both Honduras and Nicaragua to enable them to provide better services and promote the development of local government, for example through the creation of land registers to facilitate the transparent taxation of land ownership.

Water, electricity and roads

Better access to basic infrastructure for rural municipalities is a pillar of Switzerland’s commitment. As a result, 130,000 people now have access to drinking water and electricity, and 170,000 people are benefitting from the new roads that have been built since 2008 with Swiss assistance. 

Police reform

In Honduras, progress in development is being hindered by murder and crime rates that are among the highest in the world. Since 2013, the SDC has been active in police reforms and is supporting measures to raise citizens’ security in five medium-sized cities.

Advocacy and Good Governance

Adaptation to climate change

Risk maps and territorial planning

The risk of devastating hurricanes and prolonged droughts has increased as a result of climate change. Through the creation of risk maps, territorial planning with the inclusion of river basins, and the sustainable use of natural resources, municipalities are supported in their efforts to adjust to the various consequences of climate change.

Reservoirs and drought-resistant plants

The SDC is promoting innovative agricultural methods: Through planting drought-resistant plants and the construction of small reservoirs, small farmers are better equipped to cope with periods of drought.

Climate change and the environment

Humanitarian aid

Rapid response

The presence of experts from Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) in Managua enables Switzerland to respond quickly to sudden disasters. In 2006, local emergency teams were created comprising representatives of the SHA, Swiss embassies and Swiss NGOs in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. These teams are ready 24/7 to respond to the consequences of natural disasters. They are able to quickly assess the extent of damages and the humanitarian needs.

In cooperation with transregional and tertiary education institutions, SDC Humanitarian Aid is also strengthening local capacities on disaster risk reduction, among others through the conceptualisation of a masters’ programme in several Central American universities.

Humanitarian Aid: saving lives and alleviating suffering

History of cooperation

Committed for more than 30 years

Swiss development cooperation has been active in Central America since 1978. Starting in Honduras, Switzerland’s commitment extended to Nicaragua in the 1980s. Since 1993, the regional main office has been located in Managua. In the meantime (1995–2009), following Hurricane Mitch, the SDC has also carried out humanitarian actions in El Salvador. In Guatemala, the SDC has supported projects in the field of food security, but has never operated from its own office in this country.

Approximately 90% of bilateral aid is split equally between Honduras and Nicaragua; 10% is reserved for regional projects.