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Food Security and Rural Development Supporter
All MCC workers are expected to exhibit a commitment to: a personal Christian faith and discipleship; active church membership; and nonviolent peacemaking.
MCC is an equal opportunity employer, committed to employment equity. MCC values diversity and invites all qualified candidates to apply.
Food Security and Rural Development Supporter in Sibinal, Guatemala
Date Opened:May 15, 2012
Start Date:Available Now
The successful candidate for this position will work towards accomplishing the goals and objectives of the food security and community development components of MCC's current strategic plan in Guatemala. S/he will be seconded to the Obispado de San Marcos, which implements a food security and community development project in the Sibinal municipality and the San Marcos Diocese. A single candidate is preferred for this assignment.
For the last 3 years, four communities which run two cooperatives, have been engaged in a development strategy that utilizes available natural resources in a sustainable manner and where local efforts are valued and local people are the primary actors. This development has been incremental, complicated and largely unscientific, but it has been real. The major components of the cooperatives’ visions are the commercialization of flowers and trout, the development of community-based tourism businesses and the promotion of ecological agriculture. What exists today is the foundation for these components to grow and to generate real and sustainable impact for the families that comprise the cooperatives. The service worker will assist in this process which will be largely an entrepreneurial effort, but will also require offering various types of organizational and administrative support.
In general terms, the assignment consists of:
The service worker will integrate into two teams: 1) at the community level that is the direct implementing partner for MCC’s rural development program in Sibinal and 2) at the San Marcos Diocese level that has provided broader support to the same program since its inception. The team at the local level is comprised of a technical team and the leadership of two emerging agricultural cooperatives. The service worker will provide support to help continue developing the visions of two cooperatives – cooperatives that were birthed out of an MCC-San Marcos Diocese hurricane relief/food security program 5 years ago. The San Marcos Diocese is a ministry of the Catholic Church that has been working and developing its services to the communities in San Marcos for a number of years. The Diocese provides an administrative umbrella for MCC’s work in Sibinal and will offer technical support to the service worker and local team during the implementation of the program.
Guatemala is home to many rich cultures as well as a sad and violent history of conflict between a small, wealthy class and the majority, impoverished population. Thirty-six years of civil war (1961-1996) has left the country divided politically and ideologically, and its social fabric ailing. The Guatemalan Highlands is one of the most distinct regions in all of Central America, due to its numerous volcanoes and predominantly indigenous population. The department of San Marcos is the westernmost department in Guatemala’s Highlands and also one of its most ecologically rich. The drastic variation in altitude, from coastlands to mountains, makes for astoundingly diverse nature and culture. It is home to a majority agrarian population of Mam indigenous people who have been characterized traditionally for their special relationship with the land.
The service worker will live in Sibinal, San Marcos, a small town (also the name of the municipality) of about 12,000 inhabitants located on the border with Mexico. Sibinal is set 300km west of Guatemala City between the two tallest volcanoes in Central America, Tacaná and Tajumulco. In contrast to its warm and hospitable population, the climate is relatively cool due to high altitudes – between 50° and 75° Fahrenheit year round. There are no paved roads to any of the villages where MCC is working and most of the transportation among the communities is done by walking or in pick-up trucks. Amid the context of violence that is so prevalent in Guatemala, Sibinal and most of the Western Highlands, is still a very safe place to live.
The reality is that life in Sibinal is changing. Besides the growing obstacles to traditional subsistence life (the availability of arable land remains static while population continues to increase), expectations for standards of living have grown. However there is little or no viable employment in the area and so young men (and now women) have been leaving the countryside in droves seeking work. It is with this motivation – to help conserve, in many respects, these healthy communities – that MCC has been working in Sibinal.
The San Marcos Diocese is located in the capital city of the department of San Marcos, which takes the same name. San Marcos is a beautiful city resting at roughly 7,500 feet in a valley surrounded by green mountains. San Marcos has a population of about 25,000 people but feels bigger as it runs into San Pedro, another city roughly the same size. The service worker will be required to commute occasionally by bus (2 hours) to San Marcos from Sibinal for meetings in the Diocese. San Marcos is also a city where amenities not offered in Sibinal can be found.
Program and planning with local communities and leaders requires patience and humility. (The projects are from the communities not ours). One of the common challenges of work within the country is the potential that exists for over-work and creation of co-dependency considering that we work with communities where scarcities abound. (We are not the savers of the world) It is both a challenge and opportunity to work hand in hand with local participants in a compassionate way, assuming both the role of learner and also being able to mentor and transfer new skills to participants in the community. (The "how" is more important than the "what")
It is also important to be aware of the nature of living in a country like Guatemala. While the armed conflict ended ten years ago, this is a country where violence and petty crime are a fact of life, and while this does not overly affect things on a daily basis, the worker should be conscious of this fact. Living and working in remote villages with limited amenities and a lot of walking and hiking in lieu of transportation can be quite challenging. In addition, working with indigenous communities in Guatemala requires a lot of patience and ability to handle frustration and disappointment due to differences in language, life style and ways of understanding. Nevertheless, with flexibility, creativity and perseverance the experience will be rewarding.