Solola, Guatemala – As part of his visit to Guatemala last week, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, Jonathan Cordone, met with Joan Parker, CEO of Counterpart International. At a meeting in Solola on August 25th, Ms. Parker showcased the Food for Progress program, funded by USDA and implemented by Counterpart International. The event featured opening remarks from Undersecretary Cordone and Ms.Parker, as well as presentations by 60 Food for Progress program beneficiaries and partners, and an opportunity to meet with Counterpart Guatemala technical staff.
Other representatives in attendance included Richard “Todd” Drennan, USDA/FAS Agricultural Counselor for Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador; Allison Thomas, USDA Chief of Staff; Mariano Beillard, USDA Special Advisor, and; Maria Ester Bucaro, Counterpart Guatemala Food for Progress Chief of Party.With USDA support, the Food for Progress program, starting in 2012, has helped re-establish the agricultural extension system in Guatemala by training extension agents, who then provide technical assistance to farmers in five regions in the Western Highlands. Over the course of the last four years, 35,000 families have received training on sustainable agriculture techniques and approximately 25 percent of these families have received agricultural loans to improve crop yields, through the program’s financial partner, MI COOPE. Forty percent of the farmers in the program are women. In addition, community Learning Centers (CADERS), farmers’ cooperatives and associations have received capacity building grants and support to improve services to farmers and increase access to markets.
“The Food for Progress program has given indigenous, rural farmers a voice in their future and an opportunity to be solution creators in their own communities. The program has improved agricultural practices, increased incomes and reduced malnutrition. It has restored dignity and hope for tens of thousands of indigenous farmers,” said Ms Parker.
Through Food for Progress, Counterpart staff works hand in hand with USDA, the Guatemalan Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food (MAGA), and implementing partners, including the University of San Carlos, FENOCOAC, R.L, and the University of California, at Davis. Local partners include farmers from all levels of the supply chain, from CADERs (small, informal networks of farmer/neighbors) to associations (from small, regional associations to national associations) to cooperatives across agricultural sectors including, coffee, vegetables and livestock. On Thursday, Undersecretary Cordone and Ms. Parker had the opportunity to meet with 60 Food for Progress beneficiaries representing 26 CADERs, 4 associations, and 20 community leaders with their Counterpart-trained MAGA Extension Agents.
Highlighting the transformative power of the Food for Progress program on both individual farms and rural communities throughout the Western Highlands, CADER representatives at the event included people like Fausto Ramirez from Tuitzaj, San José Ojetenam. Fausto is the leader of his 12 member CADER, working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and Counterpart to raise fish, thirty percent of which feed the members’ families, providing a nutritious source of protein to reduce rates of malnutrition in the community’s children. The additional seventy percent is harvested for sale at a local market, generating income to buy vegetables, eggs, and other healthy food that the community couldn’t previously afford.
This is just one of the remarkable success stories coming out of Guatemala and the Food for Progress Program. Around the world, Counterpart partners with local community organizations – like Fausto’s CADER – to improve lives and build more durable futures. In this vein, Food for Progress Guatemala works with local partners to give rural, indigenous communities a voice and a connection to knowledge and markets: an effort that is truly transformative for both individuals and households. 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.
Photos from the event, courtesy of the United States Embassy in Guatemala, can be found here.
Counterpart International helps people build better lives and more durable futures, community by community. For 50 years, Counterpart has been an innovator, changing the way people look at, and solve, global development challenges. This year alone, Counterpart is working with 150,000 leaders – including women and youth – and more than 3,000 local organizations in 25 countries around the world. Learn more about Our Work.