Guatemala: Farming for the Future

The Problem© MADRE

Indigenous Ixil women living in the Quiché region of the Guatemalan highlands endured 36 years of civil war. The Quiché region was the area most severely affected; nearly half of all recorded human rights violations – including the killing of 200,000 Indigenous People – occurred here. Many of the women in Quiché have survived rape, torture, the murder of family members, and forced displacement from their ancestral lands. Today, many widows and single mothers are the sole breadwinners for their families.

Ixil women are among the poorest people in Guatemala, which itself has the highest infant mortality rate in Central America and one of the world's worst rates of malnutrition for children. Most families don't earn enough to purchase basic necessities. Poverty drives many young people to leave the area in search of better livelihoods. Uprooted from Quiché, they face pressure to assimilate and often abandon their language and culture. As a result, the very survival of the Ixil People is now threatened.

The Solution

MADRE is establishing small chicken farms as a source of food security and income for Ixil women in Guatemala. Implemented in cooperation with Muixil, the project improves families’ diets by providing eggs, generates income for women, and builds participants’ technical and business skills, in turn creating more economic opportunities for young people in Quiché. Based on a community-centered model of micro-enterprise, Farming for the Future not only brings in money; it also creates opportunities for women to learn and then teach other community members about human rights.

The Results

  • Women who have never had access to credit or been able to earn income are beginning to gain economic self-sufficiency.
  • By earning income through weaving and farms, women improve their status within their families and communities. They are now in a stronger position to negotiate the distribution of work in the household and provide positive role models for their daughters and sons.
  • Nutrition is improving, which will ultimately boost maternal and infant survival rates and the overall health of the community.
  • Indigenous women are strengthened as leaders come together to attend human rights trainings and plan future community development projects.