50th Anniversary2020-12-10T11:54:20-05:00
Inter-American Foundation


50 years of partnering with local communities

Congress created the IAF with a simple mandate: trust local communities. Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, community-led groups have their own ideas about the best ways to improve their situation. So, why not provide small grants and technical support to help them implement their own plans? After 50 years of promoting development from the ground up, we look ahead knowing that local organizations will continue paving the way for more prosperous, inclusive, and peaceful communities. We look forward to helping them soar for years to come.


The IAF over the decades

Designed as a responsive agency, the IAF has had the privilege of witnessing the creativity, resourcefulness, and grit of grassroots organizations over time. Their story is our story.

  • 1970s
  • 1980s
  • 1990s
  • 2000s
  • 2010s

    Pioneering “They Know How”

    Congress created the IAF with a vision of supporting self-help efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean, but it was up to the IAF staff to figure out how best to do so.

  • Boosting community tourism in Peru

    Boosting community tourism in Peru

    The Peruvian Island of Taquile in the region of Lake Titicaca had for centuries been rich in cultural resources, yet poor in land, livestock, living conditions, and cash. A grant from the IAF in the late 1970s enabled the islanders to purchase boat motors for tourist transport to the island, open their homes for tourist accommodations, and market their textiles.

  • Empowering women through hand-crafted yarns in Uruguay

    In 1968 a group of Uruguayan women created a small cooperative, Manos del Uruguay, to promote the production and marketing of hand-crafted yarn, making the most of the abundant local wool to help women become economically independent.

  • Expanding opportunities in drought-stricken Northeast Brazil

    Community members in the interior of the state of Bahia founded the Movimento de Organização Comunitária in 1967 to provide local organizations with the technical and management skills they need to thrive.


    A global spike in oil prices, controversial macroeconomic changes, and authoritarian governments pushed the region into a “lost decade.”

  • Boosting microenterprises in Venezuela

    A small group of educators, clergy, and community workers established the Centro al Servicio de la Acción Popular (CESAP) to support organizations dedicated to improving the opportunities for low-income populations in the slums of Caracas.

  • Connecting indigenous-produced chocolate to the global market

    The El Ceibo federation of cooperatives formed to support the livelihoods of indigenous communities in the tropical rainforest in Bolivia’s Alto Beni region.

  • Creating opportunities for youth in rural Chile

    The National Confederation of Campesino Cooperativas (CAMPOCOOP) was formed in the late 1960s in Chile to support small farmer cooperatives more effectively produce and market their crops.


    The 1990s were a decade of expanding democratic governance and economic reforms in the region. Though this journey varied by country, grassroots organizations could now generally engage more constructively with governments.

  • Backing community-based organic coffee production in Mexico

    Indigenous communities in Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state, formed the Unión of Ejidos de la Selva (La Selva) in the late 1970s as an umbrella organization to represent their interests.

  • Rebuilding after the Contra War in Nicaragua

    The Contra War took its toll along the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, displacing poor populations, destroying infrastructure and housing, and decimating agricultural production. Following the war, indigenous leaders formed the Asociación para el Desarrollo de la Costa Atlántica (PANA PANA) to help communities resettle and rebuild.

  • Connecting Haitian artisans to the global market

    In a country afflicted with poverty and natural disasters, hundreds of artisans in Haiti have relied on Comite Artisanal Haitien (CAH) to secure a fair price and a market for their crafts.


    The new millennium opened with a decade of relative stability, democracy now the norm in most countries. Grantees increasingly engaged with their local governments, voicing their needs and promoting accountability.

  • Inspiring a network of corporate philanthropy

    Launched in 2002, the Inter-American Network of Corporate Foundations and Actions for Grassroots Development (RedEAmérica) is a hemisphere-wide network of corporate foundations dedicated to reducing poverty and inequality in Latin America.

  • Expanding culturally appropriate community healthcare in Guatemala

    On the shores of Guatemala’s beautiful Lake Atitlán, a group of Indigenous women is leading an effort to provide community health services in local Mayan languages.

  • Promoting racial equality in Uruguay

    Across Latin America, people of African descent are often marginalized and excluded from social programs. In 1995, Organizaciones Mundo Afro (Mundo Afro) formed to change that by strengthening the capacity of Afro-Uruguayans to participate in civil society and articulating public policies aimed at improving their economic status.


    The 2010s have been a reminder that we cannot take improvements in development for granted. Across the region, once promising democracies have swung towards autocracies and violence has escalated. Beyond supporting individual communities, the IAF has leveraged networks to address challenges with far-reaching consequences.

  • Connecting cross-border communities in El Salvador

    Some 2 million Salvadorans have left El Salvador, often staying connected with their communities of origin. Fundación para la Educación Social, Económico y Cultural (FUPEC) helps hometown associations of migrants in the United States pool resources and invest in development with residents of their respective communities of origin.

  • Inspiring at-risk youth in Honduras

    El Progreso is one of the most dangerous cities in the world, where gangs and drug trafficking thrive. Organización para el Empoderamiento de la Juventud (OYE Adelante Jóvenes) works in El Progreso to offer young Hondurans a safe space to develop job skills and engage in arts, sports, and community service.

  • Boosting inclusive initiatives in Paraguay

    Paraguayans with disabilities, as elsewhere, generally do not have the same opportunities as the rest of the population for education, arts, jobs, or civic engagement. Here enters the Fundación Saraki (Saraki).

Looking ahead

Fifty years of listening to grassroots organizations has molded the IAF into the organization it is today. We will remain open and responsive to innovative ideas, while striving to stay at the forefront of development practice. We will encourage communities to further mobilize their own resources. We will foster more partnerships with corporations and foundations that expand what we can do alone. We will be even more deliberate in how we learn from our programming.  We can do no less in keeping up with the entrepreneurial spirit of grassroots organizations and their efforts to build more prosperous, democratic, and safe communities.

50th Stories and Events

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