Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala

by Seeds for a Future
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Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fighting Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Artemio at his store
Artemio at his store

In a world full of challenges that often lack clear solutions, the Seeds for a Future Progam continues to deliver its solution for addressing the chronic malnutrition and income challenges facing many rural Guatemalans.

Families build success through our program because it is flexible – the knowledge and skills we share with them are adapted and incorporated in ways that meet each family’s unique needs and resources.

Here you’ll see the Program in action through the experience of Artemio from Santo Tomás, during his first six months with a Backyard Farm, or Casa Granja.

Artemio is 31 years old, single and lives with his two younger brothers, two younger sisters and his mom and dad on a small street right at the edge of town. Their home includes space for a small neighborhood store.

When Artemio was little he was friends with Matea, who is now one of our expert Extensionists. One day last year, Matea told him about our Backyard Farm, or Casa Granja, nutrition program. Although Artemio had never worked with crops before, he was very interested in the integrated approach of Seeds for a Future. With Matea’s guidance, Artemio started his Backyard Farm in January 2022.

“It’s basically me who works in the garden and our store, which I run. Sometimes my sisters cover the store while I’m in the garden,” said Artemio. It’s the first time the area next to his house has been put to productive use. He now comes daily to spend time planting different crops and experimenting with them.

“Tomatoes are very delicate and require a lot of care; celery is very easy to grow, and people consume a lot of it. Hierba Mora (nightshade) is also used in a lot of dishes and is very profitable at 15 Quetzales (about US $2) per “mano” or small bunch. Artemio adds, “What sells most in the store is tomato and onion, along with seasonal greens.”

Watch his video here:  After Only Six Months, This Young Man is Producing Food for His Whole Family!

Artemio plans to continue with the Program and learn new techniques to improve the production of his nutrition garden, especially tomatoes because they sell so well. “My little garden space generated a total of Q1,500 (US$ 200) of income for us from just this harvest. This is what motivates me to work every day in my garden.”  

He also notes, “Seeds for a Future helped us get a plastic sheet to protect the garden from the heavy rainfalls here, so we can keep producing food, even in difficult weather.”

“I like all the benefits of a Casa Granja,” adds Artemio, “-- eating better, the income from selling produce in our store, plus having ingredients on hand. In the kitchen, I like to use mint, chili and cilantro.” Looking ahead, Artemio plans: “In the coming 6 months, I want to make dried herb condiments with oregano, basil and celery to sell in the store.”

Through training and mentoring, the Seeds Program helps women, men, and entire families have more food, better nutrition, and new income opportunities – achieving better lives with the Program's vital goals: food security and micro-businesses.

Click here to see some of the resources we developed for our extensionists and participants, and to guide implementation of similar programs in other areas. Built to be flexible, with determination and support, the Seeds Program can be replicated worldwide.

THANK YOU! Your support has made success possible for Artemio and so many others! 

Please Donate Today to help even more hardworking rural families build better lives!! Your contributions literally make a world of difference.

Picking tomatoes
Picking tomatoes
Tomatoes on their way to the store
Tomatoes on their way to the store
A beautiful cucumber!
A beautiful cucumber!
The harvest box
The harvest box

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Family and garden -- both unique!
Family and garden -- both unique!

Dear [first name]:

It takes a uniquely empathetic person, like you, to support poor rural families in Guatemala.  Your support is very important!  Here’s why:

Families in rural Guatemala have a tough problem: ensuring they regularly have enough food and nutrition for a healthy life. This is especially true now, as many people have lost their income sources due to the Covid-19 pandemic and need to redefine how they will support their families.

Our Backyard Farm or Casa Granja program features a self-help framework focused on overcoming high rates of malnutrition among women and children. The program also fosters environmental awareness, management of household resources and garden biodiversity, along with self-reliance and the ability to improve their future.

Creativity is key. Each family is unique; their space and resources are unique. The first step is for family members and our extensionists to work together, creating a customized plan of action that fits the family’s specific situation.

During weekly visits, our local extensionists guide families to create nutrition gardens, understand nutrition needs and improve their household and patio environment. Using different forms of planting – bordered rows, containers, a mandala format -- a high degree of biodiversity is achieved in each family’s home space. Families learn diverse food production skills and self-reliance, with the opportunity to commercialize selected crops to generate extra income.

More than 2100 families have “graduated” from our 12-month Backyard Farm program.  Currently, 40 new families in each of 2 villages are receiving weekly mentoring visits -- 80 more families eating healthier food and developing the skills to build better lives!

More poor families throughout Guatemala need access to this successful nutrition and food security program. Malnutrition stunts the brain and growth of more than 50% of Guatemalan children, and the economic and health devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic makes their need for nutrition more desperate than ever.

With your generous support, the Seeds field team will be able to help more families.

Thank you very much for your powerful and lasting impact on the lives of hard-working families.  

Children eating healthy food each day!
Children eating healthy food each day!
Proud of his garden's success
Proud of his garden's success
Extra harvest for their small neighborhood store!
Extra harvest for their small neighborhood store!
Potatoes ready to harvest in his family's garden
Potatoes ready to harvest in his family's garden

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Girl with just-harvested nutritious greens
Girl with just-harvested nutritious greens

Dear [donor name]

Because of you, more rural families in Guatemala have better nutrition and more food. Over a dozen years ago, Seeds for a Future started working with families in the village of Chocolá. Since then, we developed and fine-tuned our original ideas into our integrated, self-help Backyard Farm Program, now serving 14 villages.  In the Backyard Farm program, our extensionists work directly with each family for over a year, helping them acquire the skills to grow nutritious food, and the self-confidence to continue independently. Over 2000 families -- roughly 15,000 people -- have better lives based on what they learn in this integrated program.  

Today, your support is even more important, as we work in new areas and innovative ways to bring this very successful program to more families.  Here are two examples of how we're expanding our impact:

In alliance with Association SERCATE, we began coaching 6 groups of 10 families each, in San Antonio Suchitepequez and San Pablo Jocopilas, rural towns close to Chocolá. In these areas, most families have very limited space around their homes for raising either gardens or animals. Because of this, our approach is different from both the basic Backyard Farm and the Extension version (see GlobalGiving Report for December 2021). Here, our bi-weekly workshops include presentations and best practices in food security and nutrition, medicinal plants and nutritious herbs, and garbage separation. During December, we will feature the integrated concept of our Backyard Farm, adapted to focus on working in groups, complemented with container gardening for patios. Each group has found a place to start a nutrition garden together, where they apply the new skills learned.

Five years ago Seeds for a Future started to work with families in San Felipe Retalhuleu because of the high rates of chronic malnutrition and unemployment there. Three women stepped up as community leaders to guide local famlies under our mentoring and supervision. By now, 150 families have received coaching on Backyard Farms, with a special focus on food security and nutrition for pregnant or breastfeeding women. This year 24 new families have joined the program in San Felipe. But more help is needed as our Extensionists located another housing colony nearby that urgently needs the integrated Backyard Farm program to escape from poverty through self-reliance and growing their own food.

We're proud of the flexibility of our program and our team as their hard work produces wonderful results: new teams of local extensionists coaching and mentoring new families in new communities. With self-help skills and the knowledge they need to have more food and better nutrition, these families will build better lives and better communities.

Thank you very much for your generous help throughout 2021!

Womens' group in El Asfalto, part of SERCATE
Womens' group in El Asfalto, part of SERCATE
Mother and son at training in El Asfalto
Mother and son at training in El Asfalto
Nutrition Garden: broccoli "in progress"
Nutrition Garden: broccoli "in progress"
Nutrition Garden: bell peppers ready to pick
Nutrition Garden: bell peppers ready to pick

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Girl with mustard plant
Girl with mustard plant

Your support makes it possible for more rural families in Guatemala to have better nutrition and more food because it allows us to work in new areas and innovative ways. Here are two examples:

The Basic Backyard Farm Program: Starting in the village of Chocolá more than 12 years ago, we developed and fine-tuned our original ideas into our integrated Backyard Farm Program, now serving 14 villages.  Despite months of pandemic protocols, this basic program continues to grow. In just the past 60 days, 25 new families have been welcomed into the integrated Backyard Farm program. 

Over 2000 families -- roughly 15,400 people -- have better lives based on what they learn in this integrated program.  Our extensionists work directly with each family for over a year, helping them acquire the skills to grow nutritious food, and the self-confidence to continue independently.

Our Extension Program, which teaches Backyard Farm methods, is also a success. Our team can't be everywhere, so we created a 7-month Extension program that trains local extensionists in a new community how to coach and mentor families in their area.  El Pilar, a coastal town in La Democracia, was chosen for this year's Extension Program because its climate and culture are quite different from the Chocolá area. Success here demonstrates the adaptability of our concepts and methods to a wide range of environments. 

The Extension Program in El Pilar began last April when our top team conducted the intensive 7-day initial training session for 3 new local extensionists and 22 "pioneer" families.  Our team and the trainees jointly assessed local growing conditions and food preferences, to adapt the training to focus on crops that would grow well and which families would gladly use in daily meals. Our team made 6 monthly follow-up visits for monitoring and support.

Today, El Pilar families are growing chard, mustard greens, tomatoes and onions for family use.  In some areas, families have joined to share a neighborhood nutrition garden, and other women have organized to also grow chili jalapeños, sweet peppers and cucumbers for sale. Our local partner, the Girasol (Sunflower) Association, will support the 3 new El Pilar extensionists as they mentor both the family nutrition gardens and the commercial projects. A big success for the families of El Pilar, and for Seeds for a Future's Extension Program!

We hope you join us in feeling very proud of the success participant families have built with what they learn from our dedicated and hard-working field team!

Please include Seeds for a Future in your plans for this year's Season of Giving!  Your contribution will help us add new families and new villages to the Backyard Farm program and create new ways to build self-reliant families and sustainable communities.

Thank you very much for your support !

Participant group in El Asfalto (part of El Pilar)
Participant group in El Asfalto (part of El Pilar)
Women preparing "Green Tortillas"
Women preparing "Green Tortillas"
Caring for her Casa-Granja Backyard Farm
Caring for her Casa-Granja Backyard Farm
A "working" Nutrition Garden!
A "working" Nutrition Garden!
Small-space gardening using recycled containers
Small-space gardening using recycled containers

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Don Armando explaining the Casa-Granja
Don Armando explaining the Casa-Granja

 As you may remember from earlier reports, the Seeds Casa Granja (Backyard Farm) program has successfully helped more than 2000 families improve their access to nutritious food over the past several years.  Families love the program, and its effectiveness has been proven by a 3-year scientific study conducted by the highly respected Institute for Nutrition of Central America and Panama.

The Seeds Field Team works directly with about 75-100 families at a time, with new families coming in as others “graduate” to continue on their own.  But many more families need the benefits of the Casa Granja program! Our new Extension version works with a local partner organization to customize our methods and concepts to the target community and environment. 

Organization Girasol - For a dignified life has been working for 7 years, fighting malnutrition among the children in El Pilar, a cluster of small villages. Ten miles in from the Pacific coast in the Department of Democrácia, Guatemala, El Pilar is in a tropical environment dominated by corporate sugar cane fields.

Starting last April, our most experienced Extensionists have partnered with Girasol to bring our 7-month Casa Granja Extension program to El Pilar, to help families there learn to improve their nutrition and access to sufficient food.  Girasol identified 10 local women to be trained as Extensionists because of their strong positive attitude, friendly character and willingness to learn and grow in this new position. The results of Seed’s Casa Granja Extension program will be 10 new Extensionists, each with their own Backyard Farm and each one coaching and training 15 other El Pilar families to do the same. 

There are 2 keys to the success of our Casa Granja Extension program: it is customized to the specific ecology and needs of the target community, and our accompaniment strategy supports the potential of rural families to improve their own lives and future. In addition to sharing knowledge on raising plants and animals, Extensionists include coaching on nutrition sources; nutrition needs, especially for pregnant women and babies; family first aid and health needs; kitchen cleanliness practices and recycling.

The underlying goal of the Casa Granja Extension program is to produce a positive change in human behavior. This requires a participatory approach, so family members are not simply exposed to new skills and information, but are supported over time as they develop self-confidence and problem-solving abilities, and embed their new skills into their daily thinking and routine.

The Casa Granja Extension program in El Pilar runs through September 2021. The training and coaching provided by the Seeds Team, with on-going follow-up by Girasol and the new local Extensionists, will make big changes in El Pilar.  By this time next year, nearly every family in this cluster of tropical villages will have improved access to nutritious food!

We’re very proud that our Seeds team has created this Extension program to spread the benefits of the Casa Granja to many more families in Guatemala – a way to “clone” our self-help program in new villages.  Your support has made it all possible, and your continued generosity will help us extend the Casa Granja program to more needy families!!  

First visit in El Pilar
First visit in El Pilar
Demonstration nutrition garden
Demonstration nutrition garden
First crops growing
First crops growing
First harvest of nutritous plants
First harvest of nutritous plants
Soil preperation
Soil preperation
Kids of the community
Kids of the community

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Seeds for a Future

Location: Prescott,, AZ - USA
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Project Leader:
Suzanne de Berge
Prescott, AZ United States
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