Seventy-three extension agents graduated from Counterpart International’s Certificate Rural Extension Program in April, the first class since the closing of the Guatemalan Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA) extension system and university programs in 1990.
The extension agents are now certified to work in their communities for the MAGA throughout the Huehuetenango district, providing best farming practices and techniques to improve the overall agriculture productivity. The certification is a part of the USDA-funded Food for Progress program.
The National Extension System in Guatemala disappeared 24 years ago leaving many rural farmers and communities desperate for guidance and support. The new administration in Guatemala has made an effort to re-establish the extension system.
Counterpart is improving the capacity of MAGA’s formal extension agents and certified non-governmental agricultural advisers to provide technical support to agricultural producers for increased productivity and household and market outcomes.
Through the establishment of Rural Development Learning Centers (CADERS in Spanish), Counterpart provided farmer-to-farmer training to the graduated extension agents, one third of which were women.
Counterpart has 10 CADERS in Huehuetenango where training activities took place on soil conservation, water management, horticulture production, food security and nutrition for community members, agricultural promoters, and MAGA agents.
The CADERS facilitate a teaching and learning process and provide a place for farmers and teachers to converse on best practices and technology, food and nutritional security, and rural development solutions. After trainings, each farmer is then able to share and replicate what they learned to their community members.
“The transfer of knowledge and skills to farmers and their families is an important extension activity and the extension agent must prepare himself thoroughly,” Country Director Maria Esther Bucaro said.
“They must find out which skills or areas of knowledge are lacking among the farmers in his/her area, and then arrange suitable teaching and learning experiences through which the farmers can acquire them and solve their problems. Extension also provides advice and information to assist farmers in making decisions and generally enable them to take action.”