Over the past 20 years, many Latin American and Caribbean countries have held free elections, strengthened vibrant civil societies, and lowered their rates of poverty.

But the region still confronts a violent drug trade. Climate change remains a threat. World leaders are meeting at the United Nations September 25–27 to focus on these and other challenges.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development builds on real progress in three key areas, as these profiles show.

Empowering and investing in people

Rural households in Honduras sometimes have dirt walls or floors. Animals may live inside those homes and increase the risk of food contamination.

Feed the Future in Honduras, called USAID-ACCESO, trains households in food preparation, hand-hygiene practices and waste removal. It has helped reduce illnesses and the prevalence of underweight children in these villages by 40 percent.

A young girl in Honduras washes her hands. (Fintrac Inc.)

Parents who receive this training learn how to make their food budget deliver greater nutritional value to their families.

Building inclusive economies

In Colombia, Don José Blanquiceth’s cacao farm lies on the transit route of narcotraffickers. Growing coca plants for cocaine is a temptation for many young people. But the local chocolate collective provides a real alternative: For Don José’s children and grandchildren, selling cacao to the collective beats growing coca for the traffickers.

Orley Blanquiceth, 37, helps cut cacao on his father’s farm. (Flickr/USAID)

Don José’s son says, “I want the best for my kids. My dad is making a lot of money from the cacao, and my parents buy them everything they need. I want them to have a great job and want them to study.” The family looks forward to a sweet future.

Improving sustainability and resilience

Mango producers in Mirebalais, Haiti, can lose up to half of their harvest when mangos don’t meet stringent export standards.

Martine Jean and Remise Dronette, members of the Mirebalais Association of Agro-Industrial Development, cut mangoes at a center for drying and processing fruit. (Flickr/Feed the Future)

A partnership between Haiti and the U.S. has created a processing center for dried fruit with 50 jobs, 80 percent held by women. Now fruit that otherwise would have rotted in the field instead is sold, generating more income for the local economy.

On September 25, world leaders will set an agenda to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change in the next 15 years. And you have a role too! Here are some ways you can help.