Training Mayan Indigenous Women in vegetable gardening, food production & leadership in Guatemala
Describe the need affecting community
THE NEED Mayan Guatemalans face a myriad of tremendous challenges which are pushing them off their lands and farms: violence, extreme poverty, discrimination, and environmental degradation of their territories. Since the Spanish conquistadors landed more than 500 years ago, wealthy elites and a succession of corrupt and brutal governments have attempted to clear away or subjugate the Mayan people through many means, including scorched-earth warfare and genocide. Their lands are rich in natural resources, extractable minerals and fertile lands. This has attracted powerful financial interests eager to exploit these resources through mega-projects, industrial agriculture, and mining without the prior, and informed consent or involvement of the Mayan people. Additionally, the impacts of climate change – droughts, flooding, extreme weather events—have deteriorated the fertility and health of the land, water and soils. These forces have pushed hundreds of thousands of Mayan family farmers to migrate north to Mexico and the USA to escape the poverty and violence.
How will this Advance project help to address the need?
Our proposed project aims to support Mayan women’s efforts to restore traditional farming methods and livelihoods, their lands and ecologies. It is a model that could be replicated to other Mayan communities across Guatemala: spreading agroecological (local, organic) farming approaches while promoting women’s leadership and protecting bio-cultural diversity. In this community-led project, forty women will be trained by agronomists in agroecological farming methods, and will establish communal/backyard vegetable gardens. Simultaneously, the women will develop strong leadership skills through training and practice. They in turn will train other women in their communities in agroecology and leadership. The women and their families will benefit from an improved diet thanks to the healthy vegetables, fruits and poultry produced.
Describe the primary goal of the project
Our proposed project aims to support Mayan women’s efforts to restore traditional farming methods and livelihoods, their lands and ecologies: spreading agroecological (local, organic) farming approaches while promoting women’s leadership.
Describe the change you would like to see in the community as a result of this Advance project
OUTCOMES Forty more women in eight communities trained in agroecology, thus expanding this successful model and strengthening the women’s knowledge of agroecological farming as well as their leadership skills. They in turn will train other women in their communities. We anticipate the following outcomes: – Increase locally based food security and control of food production for very low-income, rural, indigenous women and their families. – Empower the families to develop sustainable livelihoods and thrive in their home communities, rather than feel forced by economic necessity to migrate simply to escape extreme poverty; – Improve nutrition through the organic production of diverse, healthy vegetables. – Strengthen sustainable development, survival and economic viability of indigenous Mayan communities, farming traditions, rural livelihoods, and seed biodiversity. – Develop a model that can be replicated elsewhere in the nation. – Serve as a catalyst to unite communities and community groups in a cooperative effort. – Increase civic engagement for women in a strongly patriarchal society. – Preserve the ecological health through community stewardship of historically indigenous lands in a region under tremendous pressures.