USC Canada in Guatemala
The SoS program in Guatemala will build on our local partner organization’s work by focusing on seed security and supporting farmers in doing collective research on their farms. This support includes facilitating the creation of local agricultural research committees – or CIALs for short.
CIALs are groups of farmer-researchers who work together and with the larger network of CIALs to solve farming problems. They take on issues like poor soil, changing climate, and lack of water, learning to grow more, diverse food by implementing new, Earth-friendly techniques, breeding crop varieties well-suited to these growing conditions, and starting seed banks. Seed banks and grain storage systems come in particularly handy in times of food shortage. The CIALs have built-in policies to promote women’s empowerment and youth engagement.
With training and support from USC Canada and our SoS partner in Honduras – where we have been working with farmer-researcher groups since 2000 – farmers in the program area have embarked on creating eight CIALs. Advice from USC Canada's partner in Bolivia will also support a move toward organic production and marketing of potato seeds.
Our Local Partner: ASOCUCH
The Association of Organizations of the Cuchamatanes (Asociación de Organizaciones de los Cuchumatanes, ASOCUCH) is an association of indigenous farmers' cooperatives. It represents 13 coops, eight farmers' associations and 68 women's groups for a total of more than 9,000 members, most from Maya Indigenous communities. With 14 years of experience, ASOCUCH has a proven track record supporting food security at the community level. ASOCUCH supports marketing for the products its farmers produce and starting small businesses. The association helps its members adapt to climate change through programs like participatory plant breeding and agroforestry.
Where Do We Work?
During this first year of the Guatemala SoS program, we will work in 17 communities in the department of Huehuetenango. These communities were seen to have critical levels of food insecurity.
Priorities for communities where we work include
- finding agroecological solutions for farming on rough hillsides with poor soils
- learning how to adapt their farming to climate change
- building their seed supply (and the storage and banking systems to go with it)
- preserving the area's biodiversity of maize and beans
- increasing yields in all crops
Herlinda Matías is a young facilitator with the farmers' group Association of Buena Vista Campesinos in Forestry (Asociación de Campesinos Forestales de Buena Vista, ADECAF), a member of ASOCUCH. As part of her new role, she participated in women's leadership training to learn how to better support other women in community organizing. Around the world, women are often responsible for the work that goes into growing food and the care that goes into tending the land. But recognition of this doesn't always happen.
Herlinda Matías (centre) in training. (Photo: ASOCUCH)
Through working with ASOCUCH, Herlinda is learning how to be a leader and a listener, so that women's voices are heard and their work is recognized.
ASOCUCH's policy for gender equity – which includes empowerment of rural and indigenous women – lists ways to help achieve the active participation of women in its network. This policy states that at least 40-50 per cent of leadership positions must be occupied by women and at least 20 per cent of the budget is allocated toward gender policy actions.