Location: Santa Marta, Alta Verapaz
Family Size: 4
Olivia's story: Ms. Olivia Caal Caal is a smallholder farmer, a widow (as a result of Guatemala’s civil war) and a mother of three children who live with her in Santa Marta, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. Ms. Caal Caal has benefited from working with GFI through the Verapaz Action for Sustainable Agro-Industry (VASAI) program. As a result of the program, Ms. Caal Caal has diversified her crops, marketed new products, and seen her income increase. Ms. Caal Caal reflected that "After the trainings and the new techniques, we realized our income has increased, so along with my children, we decided to buy a Nixtamal (corn) Mill for community service, and then open a store to sell products of daily consumption and to improve our business.” She further states that, “Also under VASAI, we expanded our means of income with my children, we started to improve our agricultural work, applying techniques such as use of live barriers, preparation of organic fertilizers, technical management of pineapple, banana, and chili crops, and use of small areas of land for food security.” Ms. Caal Caal currently leads the community producers association and her role includes sharing new techniques and knowledge to other local families that are not working with GFI. Using the knowledge gained from GFI’s gender trainings, Ms. Caal Caal also leads a group of local women who aim to improve their marketing of local products and crafts. The training and inputs provided by GFI and its partners in Guatemala have allowed Ms. Caal Caal to significantly improve her income and livelihood. By providing irrigation kits to indigenous farmers like Olivia Caal Caal you can help GFI further this impact and provide more families with the opportunity for a more secure and prosperous future.
Olivia Caal Caal, like the other members of her indigenous Mayan community in Alta Verapaz, earns her living working the land. In this economically and geographically isolated region, there are few other options to earn a living. The economy in this region is largely agricultural, with most farmland owned by individual families. With little access to basic infrastructure, services, or economic opportunity, indigenous farmers in Verapaz, like Ms. Caal Caal, continue to suffer the highest rates of poverty and malnutrition in Guatemala. GFI believes that focusing on immediate solutions alone cannot break this entrenched isolation and cycle of poverty. For GFI, poverty alleviation and food security are just the first steps toward the economic inclusion of millions of Guatemalan farmers, helping them achieve access to the rights, services, and resources necessary for a decent life. To achieve these goals, farmers must transition from subsistence farming to small-scale production and then to cooperative farming. Each stage of this development for small-scale farmers has specific barriers and potential interventions that can help the farmers improve their livelihoods. To address this, GFI plans to provide farm irrigation kits to indigenous farmers working as part of our programs in Alta Verapaz. Communities targeted by these programs produce sufficient food for their own use and for sale throughout the year but cannot break the cycle of poverty without inputs, such as irrigation kits, to help them reach a new level of production in an environmentally sustainable manner. With a small investment of $25 you can join GFI in helping indigenous farmers sell more at better prices, establish a competitive business legally recognized by the government, and attain the political representation to ensure needed services, inputs, and participation.
VASAI is a one-year program focused on small-scale farmers of the Alta Verapaz region in Guatemala. This region – composed primarily of indigenous Mayans – is particularly affected by climate change and political upheaval. Geographic and cultural isolation has resulted in an inevitable cycle of poor health and substandard education. With little access to basic infrastructure, services, or economic opportunity, indigenous farmers in Verapaz continue to suffer the highest rates of poverty and malnutrition in the country.
VASAI builds on the success of GFI's previous program in the region, the Verapaz Community Empowerment Program (VCEP). VCEP addressed the main development barrier to indigenous farmers in the region – unreliable agricultural production – by providing low-cost, easy-to-use irrigation equipment and targeted technical trainings on improved production, nutrition, farm management, and product sales. VASAI builds upon this success by leveraging the interventions and investments enabled through VCEP to serve an expanded set of farming communities and market opportunities throughout the Verepaz region.
VASAI works directly with 480 beneficiaries in the targeted communities to strengthen income generation and help them achieve greater economic and legal inclusion through specific trainings, assistance in accessing markets, and improved technology. Over 3,000 indigenous people in the neighboring communities benefit indirectly as a result of the program. The VASAI program is supported by the Swedish Postcode Lottery and is being implemented in partnership with Pastoral Social of Alta Verapaz.