Women In Guatemala Take Charge Of Their Farms

Through the Purchase for Progress programme (P4P), members of the Municipal Association of Active Women from Yupiltepeque (AMMYA) in Guatemala have been learning how to become successful commercial farmers. Copyright: WFP/Frances Kennedy

Helping poor rural women become successful farmers is one of the best ways to build a food-secure world. That’s what the P4P programme is doing in Guatemala –with major support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) - teaching women how to grow food to eat and sell on local markets. It's just one example of what investing in women farmers can achieve:

YUPILTEPQUE—When she remembers growing up in a rural village in Guatemala one thing stands out for Roxanna Valenzuela. It was how the community ostracised her family, because her mother, a single parent, insisted on sending her 3 daughters to school even though she was struggling to put food on the table.  

Today, Roxanna, 32, is the secretary of The Municipal Association of Active Women from Yupiltepeque (AMMYA), a farmers group involved in the Purchase for Progress pilot (P4P) which uses the WFP’s role as a food buyer to help connect small farmers to markets. In just one year, through P4P, the association has managed to sell 11.3 metric tons of their black beans and maize to the WFP in Guatemala

“Joining P4P has been a huge learning experience and we are seeing concrete results, and earning more. I now want to test myself in finding and opening other doors for our organisation” said Roxanna, a mother of two young boys.

Learning the business

AMMYA was formed several years ago “because we saw no chance to grow and better our lives in   Yupiltepeque” says Rosadillia Quintanilla, 32, the president.  The main livelihoods of the area are farming, but making that a business presents many challenges. 

When they heard of the chance to become involved in a programme for farmers groups, it seemed a perfect fit.  “Many of us came from farming families but before P4P had never been involved in working the land or the business of farming” said Rosadillia.  

With P4P came new seeds and inputs support from technical partners who train the farmers hands-on how to produce bigger yields of better quality. And because P4P aims to have at least 50 per cent involvement from women in some countries, including Guatemala, the initiative includes gender trainings and women-friendly policies, and is developing action plans to better integrate women.

“The training has really strengthened us as a group” said Berta, 60.

“At the start there were so many things to do in terms of food quality that it was daunting….but we understood that if we didn’t meet the standards required for WFP to purchase our crops, our hard work would be wasted” she added. 

Seeing the difference

Alongside the women’s demonstration plot is a test field, where they planted the same amount of beans but with the old seeds and techniques. That way they can see the differences clearly, show others and compare the costs.  

“With the money from the first sale, I was able to expand a home baking business that I run and make many more cakes. I also used it for the children’s shoes and clothes. And I had a coop built so that I could start raising chickens,” says Rosadillia.

The women’s success has not gone unnoticed.

“Through P4P we received better seeds and fertilisers, so got better results. In one plot men were growing 80 quintals, while women with P4P grew 130 quintals on the same size plot” said Berta.

“At first our men were a little sceptical, now they are opening up, and so are we. We are allowing 17 men to join AMMYA. But our statute says the board will only be made up only of women” she adds, with a chuckle. 

The women are now going to apply to a new government programme – el Triangulo del la Dignita – that provides three lines of action - credit, training, and technical assistance and a 3,000 quetzal (US$370) grant. 

“Our group is going to the council in the nearby municipality to press for better roads in our village” said Maria Magdalena. “Our confidence in what we can achieve together is growing”.

“Working together we are motivated. P4P has helped us achieve success and we now want more support to make our lives even better” says Rosadillia.

To see what other Guatemalan women are achieving through P4P, click on the video on the right.

Photo: Rosadillia Quintanilla, president of AMMYA Copyright: WFP/ Francisco Fion