Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala

by Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Support Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Guatemala
Vilma teaching how to use reusable menstrual pads
Vilma teaching how to use reusable menstrual pads

Entrepreneurship and secondary income generating projects are more important now than ever before. As our community members continue to face the many challenges that COVID-19 brings, the most poignant of these is the financial crisis that the pandemic has thrust upon the rural Santiago Atitlan community. As such, Pueblo a Pueblo’s Sustainable Livelihoods projects have been offering community members hope for rebuilding some of the financial losses they have experienced during the past year. 

All of our project teams, Beekeeping, Youth Leaders, and Women Entrepreneurs, have been hard at work over the past few months, in hopes that in person markets and opportunities to sell their products will be open again soon. 

Beekeeping teams in both San Pablo and Santiago Atitlan have been harvesting honey over the past two months, and have been able to bottle their harvests for sales. In Santiago Atitlan, the team is currently undergoing some expansion, and hoping to add five more members in the next few weeks.  Senior Beekeeping Technician Genaro Simalaj has been meeting with and interviewing potential new members to ensure that the team continues as a strong, cohesive group.

Youth leaders have been sharpening their entrepreneurial skills via online workshops with Project Coordinator Hony Julajuj. Just a few weeks ago, the youth leaders of San Martin met online to discuss the qualities of a good leader, community enterprise, the challenges of small businesses, and getting out of one’s comfort zone. Despite some technical challenges, Hony says that the youth leaders learned a lot, and were excited to be able to connect!

In the coming months, the team is going to receive training on how to raise egg laying chickens, and will hopefully begin caring for their own chickens soon after. Their goal is to start an egg selling business, and with the support of Pueblo a Pueblo and local experts, we are sure that when it is safe to do so, their business will be up and running!

Finally, our Women Entrepreneurs have been continuing their work with Days for Girls Guatemala, and most recently, have been sewing the storage bags for menstrual hygiene kits. Our Women's Right to Health Program Manager Vilma Mendoza just recently held a workshop for ADISA, a local organization working to defend the rights of people with disabilities. The workshop covered topics such as menstrual hygiene, calculating and tracking the menstrual cycle, and using the Days for Girls reusable menstrual hygiene products sewn by our Women Entrepreneurs. 

Although each of our Sustainable Livelihoods project teams has faced many challenges over the past year, we are very proud that they have continued to learn more about entrepreneurship, and work diligently on their projects. Pueblo a Pueblo is grateful for your continued support of our aspiring entrepreneurs, and we hope that 2021 will continue to bring more opportunities for growth!

Vilma handing out soap for menstrual hygiene
Vilma handing out soap for menstrual hygiene
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Women Entrepreneurs selling product in 2019
Women Entrepreneurs selling product in 2019

As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, Pueblo a Pueblo is embracing all safety precautions to continue meeting the needs of our constituents. In accordance with government restrictions, all of our typical in person programming with beekeepers, youth leaders, and women entrepreneurs has been suspended. However, our entrepreneurs are still working hard on their projects!

In recent month, our beekeeping teams in both San Pablo and Santiago Atitlán have been tending their hives, and are awaiting the next harvest. Senior Beekeeping Technician Genaro Simalaj has been keeping in touch with both beekeeping teams via phone calls and online skills workshops. Although the transition to technology has been challenging, Genaro is thrilled to still have a way to reach the beekeepers. 

In Santiago, our beekeepers are managing eight hives, and just recently harvested 22 pounds of beeswax! As this is their first year participating in the project, their virtual workshops have explored topics like monitoring and feeding the bees as well as how to clean the hives. Our San Pablo team, already in their third year, is thriving and caring for over 20 active hives!

Similar to our beekeeping teams, our youth leaders have continued learning about entrepreneurship through online workshops with project coordinator Hony. Just a few weeks ago, youth leaders in San Martín learned about business planning, and drafted a business plan that they hope to begin in March of 2021. In Patzilin Abaj, youth leaders recently learned about CANVAS, a basic business model that helped them plan out their finances and goals for the coming year. 

Finally, our women entrepreneurs have continued their partnership with Days for Girls, a global nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to menstrual hygiene products. Here in the Santiago Atitlán community, women entrepreneurs are helping sew reusable menstrual hygiene products for the Days for Girls kits. In recent months, ten women have been participating in the project, but in 2021 we hope to expand the project not only to include more women but also diversified forms of entrepreneurship projects as well!

As we look toward the coming year with hope, Pueblo a Pueblo is proud to support secondary income generating projects like these. We hope to make 2021 a year of entrepreneurial growth so that more community members have a chance to rebuild economically after such a challenging year. Thank you for believing in Pueblo a Pueblo’s vision of promoting sustainable change through entrepreneurship. Your support is invaluable to the empowerment of rural Guatemalan entrepreneurs!

Santiago beekeepers in January 2020
Santiago beekeepers in January 2020
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As the world adjusts to the changes the COVID 19 pandemic has brought, each place adapts according to its own realities. The first cases in Guatemala appeared in mid March, the national government quickly established measures like closing schools, prohibiting public bus transportation, shutting the borders, limiting businesses and shops, establishing a curfew. To ensure the safety and well being of Pueblo a Pueblo staff and the people we serve, we postponed all face-to-face meetings and trainings and started working remotely. 

All these measures have helped reduce the spread of cases, but have had great impact in daily life and economy. This has had a dramatic impact on the communities we serve,  leading to  widespread food insecurity as most people live day-to-day, are in the informal economy, and rely directly and indirectly on tourism.

The bees, of course, continue to pollinate flowers and crops, produce honey, and continue protecting their hive. The beekeepers still have their regular tasks to keep up with to ensure healthy and productive hives. Since there is a ban on travelling between municipalities, the technical support has been done remotely, which has been a challenge at sometimes. However, the challenges have increased the independence of the beekeepers.

Pueblo a Pueblo analyzed what the short and long term impacts to the communities we work with and we determined the most immediate are increased food insecurity, and loss of family incomes. These will cause even more impact long term on education, health and malnutrition. To reduce immediate food insecurity we set up donation drives, with help of some matching grants, to collect funds to distribute food baskets to prioritized families we serve. 

 

In the medium and long term we've started adapting our projects to the changing needs of the communities we work with so that our actions lead to more positive impact. As we continue to adapt, we will provide food baskets to people in the communities we serve. 

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The new Santiago Atitlan beekeepers try their gear
The new Santiago Atitlan beekeepers try their gear

Like many of our supporters around the world, you are probably participating in widespread social distancing efforts to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19, or the Coronavirus, in your community. As the virus spreads throughout Guatemala, Pueblo a Pueblo is doing the same.

Senior Beekeeping Technician Genaro Simalaj has been working closely with our beekeeping partners in San Pablo La Laguna. In January, they wrapped up the second year of the project cycle with a series of training sessions on business management.

Mid-February, Genaro also kicked off training with a brand new beekeeping group right here in Santiago Atitlán! These beekeepers-in-training got started with a workshop on the basics of beekeeping and received the protective gear they’ll need to keep safe while tending their hives.

In the weeks since our Santiago Atitlán took this exciting first step, however, we have seen interruptions to our activities due to the current global pandemic.

In accordance with national measures imposed by the Guatemalan government, Pueblo a Pueblo has suspended all in-person meetings and educational sessions to minimize the risk of exposure to our partner communities and our own team. Our staff, Genaro included, will work remotely until further notice.

At Pueblo a Pueblo, we recognize our ability to protect our most vulnerable friends, neighbors, and family members through social distancing. By limiting our contact with others, especially in large group settings, we can ease the burden this virus is likely to place on our rural Guatemalan community.

While our team cannot visit project partners to provide technical support for the time being, beekeepers-in-training will continue apiary maintenance as much as is possible while observing proper social distancing measures. We are confident that beekeeping will remain an effective means for economic empowerment once this crisis has run its course and look forward to the day our team can resume its activities alongside our project partners.

This pandemic has brought challenges to families and communities around the globe. It is already affecting Pueblo a Pueblo’s ability both to achieve our project goals and to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff and beneficiaries.  

As we work to execute a swift and effective response, please consider making a donation to this project today. Thank you in advance for your generosity—the future of our efforts to support families here on Lake Atitlán depends on it.

Our newest beekeepers attend their first training
Our newest beekeepers attend their first training
The Santiago Atitlan beekeepers-in-training
The Santiago Atitlan beekeepers-in-training

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Bees hard at work in one of the group's apiaries
Bees hard at work in one of the group's apiaries

What’s new?

Our beekeeping partners in San Pablo La Laguna have had a busy year. They've been hard at work dividing hives, harvesting honey, and building business connections. These beekeepers now manage over 30 hives across two apiaries, and they harvested over 500 pounds of honey in their first year of production! We are proud of all they have accomplished so far.

The group recently wrapped up their project training sessions for the year. This fall, they attended a series of workshops about native stingless beekeeping and built their secondary apiary. In December, they wrapped up a training unit on microbusiness administration, which they are already putting to good use!

The beekeepers have made plans for two new business initiatives. These new initiatives will not only generate income for the group but will also share the benefits of the project with others in their community. 

First, the group will begin selling hives to other groups of aspiring beekeepers.  They plan to divide ten of the hives in their main apiary next week and sell half of the resulting number in early 2020. The group has also begun to lead their own workshops on keeping native stingless bees. They even have the perfect classroom: their own secondary apiary!

More beekeepers on Lake Atitlán means more bees—a win for all residents who rely on agriculture to make a living. And more native bees means the preservation of this region’s indigenous pollinators. Our partners in San Pablo are proud to intervene on behalf of the environment. This passion is reflected in their name, Batz’ib’al Juyu’, which evokes their role as stewards of biodiversity in the local Mayan language.

 

What’s next?

The group will continue their trainings with Genaro in the new year. This time around, the trainings will focus on reinforcing what the group has learned about beekeeping and business. Genaro will continue to conduct technical visits each month to offer support and problem-solve as needed.

In the meantime, the group—and their bees—will enjoy the colors of a winter bloom in the fields and forests around their apiaries. We can’t wait to see all that our San Pablo partners will do in 2020! Thank you believing in the power of sustainable livelihoods to change lives. Your support fuels our partners’ success!

Group members at a recent meeting
Group members at a recent meeting
Group members with the last delivery of materials
Group members with the last delivery of materials
The native stingless bee apiary amid winter blooms
The native stingless bee apiary amid winter blooms
Beautiful winter blooms at the apiary
Beautiful winter blooms at the apiary

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Organization Information

Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.

Location: Neenah, WI - USA
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Twitter: @Pueblo_a_Pueblo
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Boston, MA United States
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