Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala

by Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Fight Child Malnutrition in Rural Guatemala
Youth participating in a training at our office
Youth participating in a training at our office

Our School Nutrition and Organic School Gardens projects have had an exciting few months since the school year began in January. Garden classes for students began in February, teachers have received their first of three trainings this year, and over 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables have been planted.

In the coming months, Pueblo a Pueblo will begin working with four new schools to develop and implement our School Nutrition Project, and we will start kitchen improvements in several schools. But more on that to come!

To improve the efficiency of the methods being used in our partner school organic gardens, we have been testing four new techniques in our demonstration garden in Panabaj. Project Manager Ana Cabrera explained, “Our goal is to help communities deal with key issues they are facing: limited water availability, lack of land and space, and poor soil quality.”

The techniques we are testing include:

  • Square foot gardening: Plant veggies as close as possible, diving your bed into 1 x1 foot squares with one type of veggie in each, instead of using long garden beds. You get more produce in less space, with less construction, less soil, and less work (weeding) and water use.
  • Keyhole gardening: A circular bed with a hole in the middle filled with kitchen scraps that become compost/fertilizer for the garden bed. You water in the center of the garden, and as you water the soil it becomes fertilized. You use less water as it slowly travels to the outside areas of the garden bed.
  • Tower gardens: Maximizes production in a small space, because you grow vertically and not horizontally.

We are also expanding our youth leadership programs in the gardens. Groups of youth volunteers have already formed in three communities (Nueva Vida, Guineales, and Xojolya), and we are hoping to establish two new youth groups in nearby communities.

Involving young people in the maintenance of school and community gardens is hugely important for garden success because “we provide the youth with new knowledge and skill sets so they can expand their options [for the future]. Also, it provides the garden with extra support and increases the involvement of the wider community, not just the teachers and kids,” explained Ana.

From new school partnerships and kitchen improvement, to new gardening techniques and youth involvement -- we are excited about the new school year. We can’t wait to share more successes with you in the coming months!

One of our youth leadership groups in their garden
One of our youth leadership groups in their garden
Students in a garden class in San Andres
Students in a garden class in San Andres
Students with some of their harvest in Nueva Vida
Students with some of their harvest in Nueva Vida
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Students enjoying camp!
Students enjoying camp!

October marked the end of the school year here in Guatemala--but that doesn’t mean that the learning stopped! Throughout November, Pueblo a Pueblo hosted a “Vacations in the Garden” course for 3rd through 5th grade students at four of our partner schools in order to keep students engaged and learning during their break from school.

Each day, the students participated in fun, educational activities that focused on different themes related to gardening. They learned about soil, plant types, seeds, biodiversity, the water cycle, and more--while also learning the importance of personal responsibility and teamwork!

In one activity, the children were asked to search for forms of life in their gardens other than plants. By digging a little deeper, they found insects in the soils, butterflies and bees pollinating the plants, and much more! After discovering and understanding the important role of each living thing in the small ecosystems in their own gardens, students were able to experience biodiversity with their own eyes.

The students were also able to conduct experiments on soil types and soil erosion. On one day, they used clear, cut water bottles to see which soils in the gardens absorbed water more quickly and more slowly, allowing them to learn which soils were best for growing different plants.

In order to understand soil erosion, teams of students made volcancitos, or little volcanos, out of dirt. They then covered one with plants and leaves (to represent trees and plant life) and left one without any vegetation, and sprinkled water on both volcancitos. The teams observed that the volcancito without the “trees” on it experienced more runoff and erosion—and were able to see the negative effects of deforestation right in front of them!

The children also learned how to use the food from their school gardens to prepare delicious and nutritious recipes for themselves and their classmates. Some of the recipes included “porcupine” meatballs (made with rice), the traditional Central Guatemalan dish called “iguashte” (a type of vegetable salad with soy protein instead of expensive meat), and spinach. They very much enjoyed learning how to use the foods they have grown—not to mention eating them!

The Vacation in the Gardens Course kept project staff busy throughout the month of November, and ended up being a huge success. Soon, the school year will be starting up again. We look forward to new school year!

Exploring in the gardens
Exploring in the gardens
Seeing the effects of erosion
Seeing the effects of erosion
Ready for cooking class
Ready for cooking class
Learning to make nutritious food
Learning to make nutritious food
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Students waiting in line to be measured!
Students waiting in line to be measured!

The end of the school year is upon us here in Santiago Atitlan! As the year comes to a close, Pueblo a Pueblo staff have been very busy collecting data for the School Health and Nutrition Program. This data collection involved traveling to our partner schools to measure the height and weight of students participating in our School Nutrition Project. The children thoroughly enjoyed being part of the evaluation process, and meeting more of Pueblo a Pueblo’s field staff!

These students, most of whom would not otherwise have access to healthy meals, each receive one delicious and nutritious breakfast every day at school. Having these healthy meals right when they arrive reduces the immediate hunger these children would normally feel, allowing them to better concentrate and participate in class throughout the day and be more successful students in the long-term!

The School Health and Nutrition Program has also been hosting cooking classes to teach children how to properly prepare the produce they are growing in their gardens, focusing on the preparation of vegetables. Most recently, the sixth grade class at San Andres School learned how to cook spinach for themselves – and they loved it! Local mothers have also been learning how to cook more nutritious meals for their kids. At La Cumbre School, ten mothers also took part in creative cooking classes. They learned how to properly prepare spinach from the gardens with spices and herbs such as amaranth and chard. Having the mothers also partake in this learning experience increases the likelihood that their families will have healthier eating habits at home!

In November, our program will host a vacation course at each school garden. The students will learn more gardening basics and plant cultivation, along with basic cooking skills to prepare simple recipes from the various produce in their gardens. It will be a very fun and educational experience for everyone, and we are very much looking forward to it!

One of our students getting measured!
One of our students getting measured!
Students participate in a cooking class
Students participate in a cooking class
Mothers learning to prepare nutritious meals
Mothers learning to prepare nutritious meals
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A student working in the Tzanchaj Garden
A student working in the Tzanchaj Garden

As the rainy season begins in Guatemala’s Western Highlands, students and teachers are working hard to clean up their school gardens and get ready for the next harvest season. Our newest partner school, Nueva Vida, is aiming to finish constructing their new school garden before the rains come. They have already been able to start planting nutritious fruits and vegetables and are teaching students about organic composts and insecticides.  

Pueblo a Pueblo’s garden technicians are also busy turning the Panabaj organic garden into a demonstration garden used to educate new partners on the principles of organic gardening and a diverse and nutritious diet. Staff is weeding, planting new fruits and vegetables, and installing more compost areas. They will soon be helped by 14 teenagers from the Panabaj community, who in return, will be able to sell the produce from the garden in local markets to earn some additional income for their families.  

We are also beginning to phase out of two schools, Chacaya and La Cumbre, where we have collaborated on constructing and maintaining the garden project for the past four years. The schools have been extremely successful -with La Cumbre harvesting over 700 pounds of produce last year alone! We know that they will continue to care for their gardens and incorporate the harvested fruits and vegetables into nutritious and delicious school meals.

The rainy season always makes upkeep of the gardens more difficult due to flooding, an influx of harmful insects, and the re-growth of weeds. Nonetheless, the students in the Santiago Atitlan and San Lucas Toliman municipalities are as excited as ever about their school gardens and the produce that the rainy season will bring!

Beginning of construction in Nueva Vida in April
Beginning of construction in Nueva Vida in April
Working on the garden
Working on the garden
Working on the Nueva Vida garden
Working on the Nueva Vida garden
Nueva Vida garden in June
Nueva Vida garden in June
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Student in La Cumbre showing off her plant
Student in La Cumbre showing off her plant

With the start of the Guatemalan school year in January came three exciting changes to our Organic School Gardens and Nutrition project.

One of the most exciting changes was the transition of leadership in the organic gardens at the La Cumbre and Chacaya Elementary Schools, as part of the 4th phase of their participation in our project.

In each school, committees composed of local educators, parents, and student representatives are now managing all aspects of the school gardens. Our project technicians are still available to provide assistance when necessary, but the committees are ultimately responsible for maintaining the garden and for ensuring that nutrition education continues for their elementary-aged students.  

We’re extremely proud to see our first project partners begin this new chapter in their organic school gardens and we’re looking forward to seeing how the gardens change and grow under their leadership!

As La Cumbre and Chacaya begin phasing out of the program, Nueva Vida is starting to phase in. Nueva Vida is a very rural community with an elementary school serving 277 students. In December we launched a collaboration with the Nueva Vida Elementary School to implement an organic school garden. With the help of local teachers and parents, we have already cleared the land and built the foundation for the garden. Soon we will start planting and in May, our project technicians will begin teaching students about the fruits, vegetables and herbs that will be growing in their garden.

Last but not least, in our November report, we told you that we were starting to serve breakfast in three of our partner communities. Due to the immediate change we saw in students’ behavior, we decided to implement breakfast, instead of lunch, in all of our partner school and have already seen the positive effect this change has had on students’ attention and participation in morning classes!     

We are very excited about the 2015 school year because we know that the knowledge and experience students gain while working in their organic school gardens and through their nutrition classes will change the common narrative of long-term food insecurity and malnutrition in rural Guatemala. By focusing today on tomorrow’s leaders, we are ensuring a healthier future for indigenous Guatemalan communities.

Teachers from Chacaya having fun in the garden
Teachers from Chacaya having fun in the garden
Students working in the Chacaya garden
Students working in the Chacaya garden
Our garden technician working with students
Our garden technician working with students
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Organization Information

Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.

Location: Neenah, WI - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Pueblo_a_Pueblo
Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.
Ana Cabrera
Project Leader:
Ana Cabrera
Neenah, WI United States

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