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UNITED NATIONS, (AP) _ Poor people from India to Fiji to Kenya are using local initiatives to break free from an unending cycle of economic hardship, but the world is barely halfway home in its battle to defeat poverty, the United Nations says.

The world body marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Thursday by focusing on key goals adopted by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in 2000: to halve the number of extremely poor people in the world, provide an elementary school education for every child and halt the AIDS epidemic by 2015.

``For most of the millennium development goals, the global record shows that barely half that amount of progress had been achieved,'' U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said. ``Overall, the world is not on track to meet the ... goals by 2015.''

More than 1.2 billion people across the world _ two-third of them women _ live in crushing poverty, facing challenges of getting access to food, safe water, sanitation, basic education and health services, according to the U.N. Development Program.

However, there is progress in many parts of the world and UNDP on Thursday gave $30,000 rewards to 27 initiatives that have successfully tackled poverty.

They included the Talamanca Initiative in Costa Rica, which helped encourage new crop practices in an area earlier ravaged by crop diseases, becoming the largest producer by volume of organic products in Central America.

``It is sad that there are more than 1 billion people who are still poor. But we represent the good news,'' said Benson Venegas Robinson, the project's head, who accepted the checks on behalf of each of the 27 recipients.

Robinson's initiative is bringing in $500,000 for the local people each year and provides jobs to 1,500 farmers, a majority of them indigenous Indians, said Charles McNeill, a policy adviser with UNDP.

Other winners include poor tribespeople living thousands of miles away in southern India on a densely forested mountain, who are using their centuries-old knowledge to market a rare energy-giving herb.

In Thailand, illegal logging is down by 75 percent in the country's oldest national park, and the poaching of Asian elephants and tigers has been reduced after low-cost loans were provided to poor farmers. In Kenya, a partnership between beekeepers is helping the poor double their income and save forests.

A community-managed marine reserve in Fiji covers 10 percent of coastal waters and has helped triple incomes.

``This day recognizes the courage, suffering and efforts of the poor themselves,'' McNeill said.