A crowd of farmers gathers at a meeting of the La Linea Cooperative in Sibinal, Guatemala, in March. Primarily focused on the production and sale of flowers, this cooperative is also working on creating a space to sell local produce and promoting ecotourism, since it is near the Tacana volcano. MCC supports the development of this cooperative, in partnership with the San Marcos Diocese, as a way to strengthen the economic and food security in Sibinal.
MCC service worker Nate Howard, of Muncie, Ind., works with La Linea cooperative and Vega del Volcan Cooperative in Sibinal as a development facilitator. Sibinal, San Marcos Diocese, is one of the poorest areas of Guatemala. Almost half of the children under 5 are malnourished, the average family doesn’t own enough land to feed or support itself, and about 70 percent of the men resort to seasonal or permanent migration to earn money for their families.
Florencio Ortiz, an associate of the La Linea Cooperative, no longer travels into Mexico with his sons to work in the coffee harvest for a couple months at a time. Instead, with the help of the cooperative, he has become one of the largest flower producers in Tonina, one of 33 villages in Sibinal. Now he can live at home throughout the year, tending his roses and carnations and selling them in Mexico on the weekends. He is a beneficiary of one of two irrigation systems recently built with MCC funding. With access to an abundant and secure water source, Ortiz is already planning to expand his production.
Florencio Ortiz shows off one of his favorite types of carnations. “What I appreciate most about the MCC flower program,” Ortiz said, “is that it has helped me to see myself as a land and business owner, rather than a day laborer.”
In another MCC Guatemala food security project, Project Harvest, women learned to plant their own vegetables using organic fertilizers and pesticide, and other environmentally friendly techniques that boost food production. The graduates hold the certificates they were given in January 2011 after completing a year of hands-on training. Project Harvest is an MCC-supported program in the Casa Blanca and Xecaja communities in the Totonicapán district of Guatemala.
Juana Jax stands in front of a rain water catchment system that she learned about through Project Harvest. Community members helped her with the excavating and construction work that she was not able to do. The rain water will be used to water plants during the dry season, allowing Jax to grow food year round.
Project Harvest participants María Victoria Castro, right, and her sister Ana Castro stand in one of their 10 irrigated terraces. In just one terrace, the sisters produced 175 cabbages. They sold 60 to 70 percent of the cabbages, raising their family income.
“At first we need to go to the market every week to buy vegetables that the family needs for our own consumption,” María Victoria Castro said. “Now with the benefit of this project we do not need to go to the market very often. Instead more families are coming to our house to buy the vegetables that they need for their consumption.”