Maria with her new garden.
The Organic Gardening Project has a total of 18 women participating. The objective of the project is for every woman to have fresh produce for their family’s consumption and have some produce to sell and with this profit be able to provide some of basic needs for their family. Another project objective is to empower the women by teaching them different skills that give them independence and knowledge. With the produce from their gardens, they were able to provide a better diet for their family. It also gave the women a certain amount of economic independence, since they were able to sell some of their produce and buy a pound of salt, sugar and more basic items for their daily cooking
The women acquired new knowledge as they were integrated into the organic gardening project. The Kateri Fund provided the women with recycled bottles and the needed tools for gardening, different types of seeds, and natural products for the gardens. Through visits to other women’s successful gardens, they were able to learn how to build a raised bed garden.
Workshops in making shampoo and making organic fertilizer and insecticide were taught by the women who were originally in the project. This provides a chain of knowledge as they share what they have learned. The participants grow in their gardening knowledge, in the use of recycling materials, and in creating natural products like chamomile shampoo.
For many of the women, the big benefit from becoming part of the project is acquiring the skills they need to profit from their gardens and become economically independent and provide more nutritious meals for their family.
For others, it’s about obtaining a different kind of independence. Guatemala is a very sexist country, especially in the indigenous communities. This is why it’s common for men not to allow their spouses to join projects such as the Kateri Fund, since they consider them a waste of their time. But once the husbands learn about the economic benefits of being part of the group, they let them participate and even encourage them to go and learn and share their experiences in the workshops. This is a big step in empowering women in indigenous communities.
In order to reach the goals of the project, the women were motivated by taking them to see successful garden of other older members of our project. There, they shared their knowledge and experiences.
The project manager learned new skills as well. In the past, she had learned the organic gardening techniques. For this group, she learned the process of making shampoo in order to teach the women. She felt it was very important to learn this to perfection, so that she could pass this knowledge to the women.
She found it easy working with the new participants, since they are so eager for knowledge. As the women for the most part do not feel comfortable speaking Spanish her ability to speak their language made things go smoother when teaching and sharing with them.
The hardest part of the project was dealing with personal issues between an old member and a new member of the project. She has to mediate so that their personal problems don’t interfere with the development of the team work.
Other situations that are hard is when some women can’t join the workshops, because of family necessities or children’s illnesses. The conditions of poverty in which these women live is a challenge. Two of the women are dealing with personal issues which she is trying to help them solve.
The women are much more participative than at the beginning of the project because of all the benefits that the project gives them, especially in the workshops, which they couldn’t attend before, since their husband’s wouldn’t allow them to go, neither to visit other gardens, or to speak their opinions during our talks.
Some of the older participants help the new ones by giving them their knowledge. The project manager feels this is the biggest achievement of the project.
The new members are very thankful for the learnings they have acquired as well as for the gardening tools that the Fund provides and the profits that they are earning from their own gardens.
In conclusion, the project has supported the women of Chumanzana in becoming economically independent. The project also has led to the entire family supporting and encouraging their wives and mothers into empowering themselves. In the women’s own words, ‘we create better opportunities for participating in the group talks as well as in generating profits out of our gardens. In these ways, we have new tools for fighting our daily struggle against poverty’
The new gardeners who joined the project in 2016.
Candelaria Sut Canu, Project Coordinator
Isabel is ready to start her garden.
Josefa and Maria weeding their gardens.
Isabel preparing the soil for planting.