Helping Guatemalans feed their families, boost crops

One-third of Guatemala is food insecure, and in the Western Highlands region, food insecurity is a particularly important problem.

Food insecurity throughout the country and in the Western Highlands is largely due to crop failures caused by drought, which have plagued the region for years.

Three U.S.-funded programs in Guatemala have helped transform farmers’ economic prospects and also put more food on families’ tables.

USDA feeds families

Children smiling while holding up cups and plates of food (© Prudencio Fabian/Save the Children)
Children in San Juan Cotzal, Guatemala, who received food from a USDA-funded program (© Prudencio Fabian/Save the Children)

Through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s McGovern-Dole program, tens of thousands of children received food over the past year.

The Nuestra Cosecha food procurement project — a component of the three active, USDA-funded McGovern-Dole programs in Guatemala — directly supplied 164 schools in Western Guatemala with fresh food for 162,000 children’s lunches.

“I enjoy working on behalf of children by making good use of USDA’s food supplies and managing the Ministry of Education’s funds and resources,” said Miguel Ixcoteyac, a school teacher in Santa María Chiquimula, “and planning with teachers on the menus for our students so that they receive the nutrients they need for their development.”

The Nuestra Coesecha project also supplied food directly to parents to feed their families.

“The food we receive helps us a lot because we distribute it to the whole family and it lasts us for a week,” said María Quiroa, a parent from Totonicapán. “I can see the difference because when the children eat, they can study better.”

Another USDA-funded program that provides support directly to farmers, the Food for Progress program, included a project that also created 11,153 jobs for Guatemalans through the export of papaya, peppers, mangoes and tomatoes and gave $25 million to finance farmers.

Feed the Future sows seeds of hope

The United States Agency for International Development’s Feed the Future program in Guatemala has seen major success.

Agriculture is the largest source of job creation in the Western Highlands, but often crop failures cause a major setback.

Man holding onion plant (USAID Guatemala/Ben Ilka)
A technician shows a healthy plant in a greenhouse that uses good agricultural practices and technology like mulch, drip irrigation, fertigation and integrated pest management. (USAID Guatemala/Ben Ilka)

That’s where USAID steps in. By helping farmers access higher levels of agricultural technology and training, they’ve helped Guatemalans boost their crop production and international exports.

With a goal to reduce poverty and malnutrition in the Western Highlands, the program specifically:

  • Created 75,000 new jobs.
  • Generated $196 million in sales of coffee and horticulture.
  • Trained 18,000 women about nutrition and more diversified diets.
  • Gave 33,622 people access to water for agricultural activities and consumption.
  • Supplied 3,460 children with food through community feeding and nutrition programs.