GFI implemented the Verapaz Community Empowerment Program (VCEP), a two-year program funded by the Swedish Postcode Lottery based in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. VCEP empowered indigenous Mayan producers by improving the value of agricultural production, strengthening access to markets, and building greater local leadership activity
VCEP worked with a community of 3,000 indigenous women and men employed in smallholder agricultural production. Close to 90% of the farmers are indigenous Q'eqchi' who have traditionally planted subsistence crops such as corn and beans. Although the available land is very fertile and capable of producing a wide variety of cash crops along with subsistence foods, when beginning the program, training and necessary market structures had not been adequately supported in the region. As such, the region suffered from a very high level of poverty and the related deprivations that economic marginalization creates. The communities had poor nutrition, limited access to healthcare, and most families couldn't support a child's education costs. Through VCEP, GFI targeted the interrelated barriers that contribute to the ongoing economic conditions in Alta Verapaz.
In the start-up phase and first quarter of the program, GFI and its program partner, International Development Enterprises (IDE), hosted drip irrigation and treadle pump demonstrations in two towns for over thirty participants. Affordable, user-friendly, and effective irrigation systems are one step towards establishing food security in the region. The drip irrigation system and corresponding trainings helps establish environmentally friendly water management in northeastern Guatemala. The drip irrigation systems, designed by IDE for farmers earning roughly $2 a day, were warmly received by community members, who recounted never having seen an irrigation system that takes such little effort, has extensive coverage, and is affordable. The deployment of this technology further served as a tool to build natural community leaders who took the responsibility to train other farmers and promote crop diversification for improved nutrition. Leadership trainings focused on program goals, a community engagement program, trainings in the methodologies of the stakeholder engagement process, and some technical input programming were also carried out during the first quarter of the program.
GFI's next phase then lead to trainings on household management, savings and formalization of land, and commercial activities. Awareness training addressed labor rights, obstacles in formalizing businesses, and the role of government in promoting training and economic development. Throughout this process, the program identified leaders from within the community to participate in multi-stakeholder engagement, which successfully extended social safety nets to informal rural workers in Guatemala.
Headquarters: Caleb Shreve – Executive Director
Guatemala: Otto Navarro – Country Director