The sleepy Mayan village of Aldea El Paraiso in the Guatemalan Quiché highlands was buzzing with action today during an opening ceremony of a new goat-raising center, hosted by the non-profit organization Save the Children in partnership with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (GMCR) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The center is part of a goat milk program designed to help chronically malnourished children get the key nutrients they need to be healthy and grow.
"One of the worst places in the world for chronic child malnutrition is not found in the brown deserts of Africa, but in the green mountains of Latin America," said Carlos Carrazana, Save the Children's Chief Operating Officer. "In Guatemala, nearly one in two children under the age of 5 is chronically malnourished, meaning they don't get enough of the right kinds of food each day to fuel their growing brains and bodies."
Among indigenous populations in rural parts of El Quiché, the situation is even worse. The region's lush, rolling hills mask a hidden hunger crisis affecting 72 percent of its children under 5. That's why Save the Children, with support from GMCR and USAID, has opened the goat-raising center to offer milk as a source of protein for malnourished children in the region.
"Chronic malnutrition in El Quiché coffee-growing communities has kept many young children from reaching their cognitive and physical potential in life, a potential so necessary to move their communities from extreme levels of poverty," said Rick Peyser, Director of Social Advocacy and Supply Chain Community Outreach for GMCR. "Good nutrition is fundamental to the strength of our supply chain. The new Save the Children Goat Center in El Quiché will lead to healthier, more productive lives in communities that many coffee companies, including GMCR, depend on for their fine coffees."
"For over ten years, USAID Guatemala has supported Save the Children's innovative food security and nutrition programs for families living in extreme poverty and with very high rates of chronic malnutrition in Guatemala's Quiché department. Over the years, Save the Children has championed this exemplary 'family goat model.' Today it is our pleasure to join Save the Children and other important partners in this inauguration of The Goat Center which is the culmination of their laudable work to generate income and food security among the extreme poor in Guatemala's Western Highlands," said USAID Mission Director Kevin Kelly.
The center currently houses 85 goats (it has capacity for 300) and will serve 115 surrounding communities. Over the next three to five years, 2,200 families and more than 3,500 children will benefit from the goat center. In addition to providing milk for children, the program teaches families how to generate income year-round by raising goats and other farm animals, selling surplus milk, and making cheese and yogurt.
Save the Children's goat-raising center in Guatemala offers milk as a source of protein for undernourished children living in rural communities. Nearly half of all children under age 5 in Guatemala are chronically malnourished. In Quiche, a rural mountainous area about 165 kilometers outside of Guatemala City where Isabella lives, the number of chronically malnourished children climbs to more than 72 percent of under 5 children. One-year-olds are especially vulnerable once they stop breastfeeding and no longer get enough of the right proteins and nutrients in their daily diet.
"Healthy foods fuel the growth of a child's brain and body in their early years. Without them, children suffer life-long consequences — their growth is stunted, they are more susceptible to illness, they struggle to keep up and pay attention in school," said Carlos Carrazana, chief operating officer of Save the Children. "But when we reach children early on, we can change their future, and make sure they have a chance to reach their full potential."
Save the Children provides child hunger programs to families in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, an under-resourced area that is home to the country's ethnic minority community and where a high percentage of children are malnourished. In addition to the goat milk program, Save the Children counsels pregnant women, mothers and caretakers on how to breastfeed, and on how to help their kids be healthier and eat a better diet. Working with community volunteers and health workers, Save the Children reaches mothers through classes, home and health clinic visits, community fairs, community theater events and soccer tournaments.
Save the Children also advises families on how to grow more nutritious food, such as beans, corn, potatoes and vegetables, and how to raise animals for eggs, goat milk and meat. Families also learn how to increase their income through better marketing approaches and new business opportunities like horticulture and animal husbandry, which helps pay for food and other needs for their children.
"Look at beautiful Isabella today. She is a happy, healthier child," added Ronaldo. "I want her story of a life free from hunger to be the story of every Guatemalan child. That's a goal worth pursuing."
Doña Fidelia Brito lives in Guatemala's Highlands, in a small rural village. A successful experience with Save the Children's goat program has inspired Doña Fidelia to fight chronic malnutrition in her community.
In 2008 Doña Fidelia and her husband Leonel Cruz took their only child Felipe Josué to a growth monitoring event. They worried about his low weight and looked for ways to help provide him with moer nutritious food. With guidance from the local health worker, they registered for Save the Children' goat raising program in order to produce goat milk at home for Felipe Josué.
After just a few months began to see a remarkable improvement in Felipe Josué's growth. When the goat had two kids, they kept them and gave the mother to another family. Later on, Doña Fidelia's own health improved by drinking goat milk, with no more hair loss and the headaches she used to have.
Early in 2012 Doña Fidelia adopted two more goats. Through best practices in animal husbandry, she now has four adult goats, and more on the way as two are pregnant. Thanks to the training received in goat management she has reached a daily production of a half gallon a day which she distributes among the young children of her village.
Other mothers are following her example, like Doña Maria Magdalena Alvarez whose goat now produces 1/2 quart of milk per day, just enough for her two-year-old daughter Catarina.
Doña Fidelia's dream is coming true, and other goat-related benefits for home gardening (manure) and meat production represent further contributions to her isolated rural community food security.
"With the support Save the Children has given me, I learned a lot about goats and all its various benefits. I have a goal which is to have my own milk production factory in about 5-year-time".
Those were the words of Diego Sarat, Save the Children agricultural leader in Media Luna the community in Guatemala, Cunen, Quiché.
This program is part of Save the Children strategy to reduce malnutrition among children under 3 years old who are underweight and to promote the financial development of their families. The new goal for the community is to provide farmers with an additional 6 goats in order to ensure daily milk production and a steady supply of nutritious milk for children and income to help parents buy food to feed their children.
Diego Sarat's family is the first one beneficiaries of this program which aims to driving a more ´professional´ management of the goats raising business and was chosen because he was a leader who had prominent agricultural success in his model farm. In addition, he has proven to be a hard worker and has space to accommodate goats and and livestock feed. Diego is committed to provide the milk the goats provide to 10 children in his community. These children are at high risk for malnutrition and are less than 3 years old and are underweight.
Diego is also able to sell the surplus milk and cheese (which he makes every two days) which helps nourish his children and increase the family's self-sufficiency budget. The management of the goats have multiple benefits, from milk production through the use of manure and urine to fertilize gardens and farm crops.
Many thanks to our supporters for helping make this a reality!
The dream to have a goat-based enterprise came true for the Ramirez-Cano family in the community of El Pinal.
El Pinal is located in a pine forest area where local farmers had to change traditional sugar cane farming to corn, beans and coffee due to competition from industrial sugar cane production. The area is affected by chronic malnutrition and receives Save the Children food security support, including goat raising to increase children´s milk consumption.
Don Elmer and Doña Natalia took this activity at a higher level acquiring five goats and they now produce goat cheese in addition to providing a daily glass of goat milk to neighboring 10 children under 5 years old. Elmer and Natalia added a lot of personal effort to the training received and now generate a steady daily household income of $6 a day in addition to occasional sale of goat kids; three were recently sold at around $50 each. Given that about half of the population of Guatemala live in poverty on less than $2 a day, the goats have been quite a boon.
Household fertilizer expenses and exposure to chemical pesticides were also reduced as they now successfully use goat droppings and urine. They report a 10% increase in corn production since using these goat by-products as manure and pest repellent.
Elmer and Nathalia´s family has become a model for their community and many approach them to learn their goat raising and farming practices. Their future now looks more promising and the genetic quality of their goats is improving thanks to crossing with selected goats promoted by the Save the Children.
In Elmer´s own words ‘I am very grateful for the support and opportunity received, it has changed my family’s life and I am happy when I see the smile of children when they drink their glass of goat milk every morning’.
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