Microloans Help Guatemalan Women Reach Their Goals

by MayaWorks
Drawing water for crops is not an easy task!
Drawing water for crops is not an easy task!

MayaWorks has funded three new microcredit projects in the mountain hamlet of Xetonox, near Tecpán, Guatemala. Xetonox is known for its fertile volcanic soil which is why most of the projects we fund in this region are for planting crops.

Our long-time artisan partners, Vicenta, Marta and Santos, each received $500 to plant vegetables.  Vicenta and Marta, veteran gardners, have used their microcredit loan to plant green beans while their neighbor, Santos, has planted peas and broccoli.  

For the next three months the women will care for their plants by watering, fertilizing, and thinning them until they are ready to be harvested.  Once harvested, the women will sell their crops to buyers who will export them largely to the United States.

MayaWorks has found that planting and selling crops are lucrative income generating projects but they are also subject to high risk because their success is directly tied to weather.  The rainy season has been very heavy in Guatemala so far this year.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that these new projects will be successful for Vicenta, Marta and Santos!


Maria Arcadia and her milk cow
Maria Arcadia and her milk cow

María Arcadia is an example of the power of a successful microcredit project.  With her first MayaWorks' microcredit loan, she purchased a cow and sold milk to the members of her small community of Agua Caliente.  That was in 2010. María Arcadia still has the cow and is still providing milk for her village but, just this past year, and after paying off her first loan, she requested another microloan to expand her livestock.  María Aracadia purchased a female calf that she will take good care of until she is able to produce a calf herself.  In this way, María Arcadia will grow the number of livestock on her farm.

MayaWorks is careful to teach loan recipients that they must consider all of the expenses related to their income generating project, not just the initial purchase cost.  For example, we asked María Aracadia what will it cost to feed the calf?  What will veterinary visits cost?  Will there be any expenses related to mating the cow?  What will the selling costs be when she has finished mating?  It is important to discuss all of these potential expenses with the loan recipient so she clearly can see whether the project will be profitable or not. After reviewing all of these costs, María Arcadia determined she could double her investment.

When women have success with their projects, when they really understand their projects, they feel confident to expand them and ultimately create more income for their families.  

Maria Arcadia and her neighbors of Agua Caliente
Maria Arcadia and her neighbors of Agua Caliente


Elena Mux, MayaWorks microcredit recipient
Elena Mux, MayaWorks microcredit recipient

It’s incredibly inspiring to listen to the women’s stories.  One thing I hear over and over again is how grateful they are to have opportunities: Opportunities for ongoing work; opportunities to start small businesses; and opportunities to educate their children.   Elena Mux is grateful for the opportunities that have helped to improve her life.

Elena began to support her family at the age of 13 when her father died.  She earned money by weaving and sewing products that she sold in the local market.  Elena married young and continued to take on work as a weaver whenever it became available.

It wasn’t until Elena started working with MayaWorks that she began to earn a fair wage for her weaving.  She says the opportunity of ongoing work with MayaWorks has allowed her to be financially independent.  This has been critical for Elena: her husband died early in her marriage and she has been the sole supporter of her teenage son. 

Elena also sells Omnilife health supplements that she purchased with a MayaWorks microcredit loan.  Elena’s business has been very successful: she has many customers who seek her out for her products.  During a recent visit with her, she proudly showed me her inventory and thanked me for the opportunities MayaWorks has afforded her family.

MayaWorks also offers other opportunities to assist women toward economic security: Artisans have the opportunity to expand their ability to create beautiful products that will bring them more income through MayaWorks capacity building trainings; daughters of artisans have the opportunity to stay in school and reach their educational goals when they are granted a MayaWorks scholarship; communities have the opportunity to improve their reading skills through MayaWorks literacy workshops.

We cannot do this work without our supporters. Your support helps MayaWorks fund programs that expand financial and educational opportunities for women who are ready to take on the world!  Thank you and Happy New Year to you and yours.


Lili weaving on her treadle foot loom
Lili weaving on her treadle foot loom

Lili Carmen has been weaving for as long as she can remember.  Weaving threads into masterpieces brings her great pleasure:  it relaxes her and reminds her how far she has come because of her weaving skills.

Life has been difficult for Lili.  Because her family was so poor, she needed to work from a young age to help her family make ends meet which meant Lili was unable to attend school.   She married young.  Her husband left her on and off throughout their marriage.  Lili had to be the breadwinner of her family and care for her three children mostly on her own.

Like most indigenous women, Lili leaned to weave from the time she was a little girl.  And this has been her saving grace.  Lili is a master weaver.  Women seek her far and wide to commission her weavings.  Lili has a MayaWorks’ microcredit loan to buy supplies and equipment to weave huipiles for other women.  Huipiles are the bright woven shirts that indigenous Maya women wear.  With the income she earns from weaving MayaWorks products and the huipiles she sells independently, Lili has purchased her own home, sent her three children to school and put food on the table everyday.

It hasn’t been easy for Lili but she stands strong knowing that she uses her skills to care for her family and make it on her own.  And she is grateful that she always has access to a MayaWorks microcredit loan to take her to the next step in reaching economic stability.

Lili is happy when she weaves
Lili is happy when she weaves
A work of art!
A work of art!


Fields of Green
Fields of Green

By far MayaWorks grants more microloans for crop projects. The Maya live by the land.  Subsistence farming is a traditional way of life for Maya families in Guatemala; however, more and more these days, Maya farmers are growing crops for export to the U.S.  Three MayaWorks artisan partners have recently received loans of $500 each to buy plants for export crops.  

These women, from Xetonox, a fertile valley of Tecpán, will plant green bean and blackberry plants, both of which are lucrative export crops, that is, if the weather cooperates.  Too much rain ruins the plants and rainfall totals from recent years have proven that planting crops can be risky business.  Average rainfall in Guatemala ranges from 60 to 100 inches per year.  If a tropical storm system rolls in, the fate of crops is left to mother nature.  And mother nature usually wins!

We're keeping our fingers crossed for a successful year because the women really love their crop projects.  They proudly show off their fields when we come to visit.



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Location: Berwyn, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.mayaworks.org
Project Leader:
Jeannie Balanda
Executive Director
Chicago, Illinois United States

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