By Jennifer Jones, Vice President - Strategic Communications
After a late night at work, I’m driving home and listening to a BBC story about Guatemala’s farmers. I know something about Guatemalan farmers because Counterpart has been working with local partners in the country since 2003. I turn up the volume.
The story is about smallholders in what’s called the “dry corridor,” where drought is a way of life. And it’s worse than ever. Chiquimula has received only 400 millimeters of rain this year – half of what it normally gets, according to the broadcast.
Severe malnutrition, drought, coffee rust, migration away from rural areas and the need for more investment in the country -- the story’s themes are the same ones we heard when starting our work in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. What really strikes me though is that the story has no hope. And I know there’s hope for Guatemala’s farmers.
Counterpart and our local partners have transformed the farming practices of 44 rural communities in Guatemala, thanks to funding by the United States Department of Agriculture.
The success of our Food for Progress program in the Western Highlands is a result of what I call “classic Counterpart,” where we:
- Equip local partners to solve their own challenges,
- Build the capacity of local groups and networks to work more effectively together toward common goals,
- Increase the efficacy of government agencies to deliver services that empower communities and
- Involve private enterprise so they are part of the solution.
Now, more than 200 extension agents have received certification to work for the Ministry of Agriculture and are working side-by-side with local farmers to improve soil and water management and to implement other sustainable agricultural practices.
More than 14,000 farmers have benefited from these trainings -- 77 percent of them women.
Farmers’ cooperatives now operate in nine municipalities in the Western Highlands, sharing technical assistance that has increased agriculture production and led to healthier livestock, generating increased revenues for members and healthier food for their families. Our partner, MICOOPE, provided agricultural credit to 125 groups, totaling more than $3 million. And, MICOOPE secured contracts with six export companies that will purchase produce from Guatemalan farmers.
These communities have been transformed – nutrition has improved and families are stronger, healthier and more hopeful. And this hope can be brought to other parts of Guatemala, including Chiquimula.