A New Beginning for Guatemala

September 27, 2016

This story is part of our series on Counterpart’s Food for Progress program in Guatemala.

We drive quickly, turning into the dusty driveway around 7pm after a long day of visiting three other rural communities. The drive through the mountains and valleys of Guatemala’s Western Highlands, all on rocky dirt roads, took almost three hours. We’re welcomed by a large group of children, giggling and excited to see us, and they whisk us to the barn in back of the house, breathless as we try to chase the quickly disappearing sunlight.

Leonardo Felipe Girón, our host, is the leader of the Nuevo Amanecer CADER, or small agricultural group, outside of San Marcos, Guatemala. Nuevo Amanecer – or “New Beginning” – is made up of 12 families, with 30 children between them. To build a better life for his family, Leonardo had formed an informal agricultural group with the local municipality in 2009, but later registered as a CADER at the recommendation of the Guatemalan Ministry of Agriculture Extension Agent who was working with the community. As a registered CADER, Nuevo Amanecer members have been able to access and attend trainings and classes, and have been given the ability to apply for funding and support through new partners like Counterpart International.

Leonardo Felipe Girón, leader of the Nuevo Amanecer CADER in Guatemala

Leonardo Felipe Girón, leader of the Nuevo Amanecer CADER in Guatemala’s Western Highlands, holds up one of the group’s goats. Photo by Bryan Clifton, Counterpart International.

After attending a training on food security in 2014, the CADER applied to Counterpart for support in purchasing goats in order to provide better protein and a more diverse diet to the children within the community. With funding and technical support from Counterpart staff, Nuevo Amanecer purchased six goats (five females and one male), mineral salts for the goats to eat, medical kits, and training for the community to learn how to best care for the goats. The CADER received the goats in April of this year, and they have already been a game-changer for this small, rural community. The Nuevo Amanecer members are a close-knit group, and work together to raise the goats, taking turns cutting the grass that feeds them, collecting the manure, and cleaning out the goat shelter.

While the goats are ultimately intended as food, the CADER sees several ways to improve their community with their new livestock. First, they are using the goat manure to produce organic compost and fertilizer. They have purchased red worms in order to help produce the compost, which is then used in the CADER greenhouse to grow vegetables for the members and their families. “We already see an improvement,” said one CADER member, telling me how things have changed since they stopped using chemical fertilizers in their garden.

“The vegetables are greener now with the organic compost, it’s less expensive for us, and we feel better giving the food to our children.”

The community is pleased with both the improvement in their own vegetables and with the increased income they expect from selling their organic crops at the local market.

Greenhouse plants

Second, the goats are a source of healthy milk for the local children. The female goats will produce milk after giving birth. Since April alone, three goats have given birth and are now producing milk that is improving the health of the CADER’s children.

Third, after producing ten babies each, the female goats will be used for meat for CADER families, with the excess sold at the local market. Once the goats begin reproducing more regularly (expected in the next few months), the kids will be divided up between the Nuevo Amanecer members.

Guatemalan family

Perhaps most impressive is the resourceful way that the CADER is already generating income with the goats, years before they will be ready to sell the meat. With 200 neighbors interested in Nuevo Amanecer’s new livestock, Leonardo has been renting out the male goat to impregnate other goats within the community. For each pregnancy, the CADER receives 50 Quetzal, the equivalent of $6.50 USD. The goat “rental” program serves a bigger purpose than just generating income. More pregnancies equal more visibility for the CADER, Leonardo tells me proudly. Everyone who rents the goat comes to see their greenhouse and the vegetables that they produce with the organic compost. They see the children, happily running around, chomping on peppers and drinking goats milk. They see Leonardo and the other Nuevo Amanecer members taking every opportunity to improve their livelihoods. And that is indeed a new beginning for this community.

To date in Guatemala, Counterpart has provided 226 organizational development trainings to farmers, and 124 farming cooperatives across all levels of production in industries ranging from coffee to vegetables to livestock. Counterpart looks forward to working with these communities, in partnership with USDA, for many years to come. We are committed to helping these organizations increase sustainable agriculture yields that will improve family nutrition and increase family incomes.

With generous support from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Counterpart International is working in more than 35 communities across Guatemala, providing training and capacity building to increase sustainable agricultural techniques in rural communities, increase production, and improve livelihoods of indigenous rural farmers. From August 7th through 13th, Alexandra Frank, Counterpart’s Senior Officer for External Relations, traveled to Guatemala to visit a variety of our Food for Progress program sites, and hear stories from program beneficiaries and partners throughout Guatemala City and the Western Highlands. During the next eight weeks, we will feature stories and photos of our amazing Guatemalan partners on our blog every Tuesday.

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