Blackberries in Guatemala beat El Nino

It’s not blackberries alone, but with the help of green beans, snow peas, and new agricultural techniques, farmers in Guatemala were able to have higher-than-average production, even in the midst of a severe drought, and an 8.2% increase in income.

With support from Cargill, CARE Guatemala has been conducting the Nourishing the Future project since December 2013. (The program is also running in Honduras and Nicaragua, and has had equally impressive results there).

What have we accomplished?

  • Better resilience: Although the El Nino droughts have reduced production on some crops this year, the project was still able to produce more than 1,500 metric tons of fruits and vegetables so far, and yields for this year were higher in Nourishing the Future communities than the national average.
  • Links to markets increase: Even with slightly lower production, farmers were able to sell 5 to 6 times MORE of their crop than they could before because of more desirable varieties and better relationships with buyers. Even when production went down, income and sales went up.
  • Increased income: Farmers have earned a total of $713,445 with improved production, an average increase in per-farmer income of 8.2%.
  • Improved nutrition: Producers reserve and average of 10% of their crop for consumption at home. The number of days a family is food insecure has dropped by 62%.
  • Improve adolescent nutrition: 5,688 schoolchildren got training in good nutrition practices, and the project developed school gardens that grew more than 50,000 servings of vegetables. The project also created a nutritious foods cookbook for school lunch programs that can reach 115,000 children.
  • Better wages—especially for women: Because of improved practices on producer farms, agricultural laborers were able to make a little over $585,000 in wages—an average wage of $5 a day. This is double what women laborers are able to earn in farms that do not work with Nourishing the Future.
  • Higher return on investment: Using what they learned on planting, storing, and improved techniques, farmers were able to reinvest $88,301 dollars in their seed capital for next year—72% higher than their initial investment.

How did we get there?

  • Support access to materials and markets: CARE and its partners worked with producer groups to improve access to markets, and support training and input supply for new seed varieties. CARE also helped producer groups negotiate relationships with major companies so they could sell for good prices.
  • Focus on women’s leadership: CARE made a point of working with producer groups to get women into leadership positions. In the words of Maria Cristina Raxjal Mayor, “I never imagined being part of a producer organization in my community, but I lost my fear, today I am the treasurer of the Pamumus Pea Producers Association.”
  • Better access to credit: there was a 62 percentage point increase in the number of farmers who could access credit to invest in labor, new varieties, and new businesses—like livestock raising or jam production.
  • Adapt to emergency situations: When the impacts of El Nino on staple crops became clear, CARE and Cargill negotiated to focus on 864 families in the most need to help them promote not just cash crops, but also maximize the production and storage of staple foods.
  • Work through partners: By working with many national ministries, municipal governments, and producer groups, CARE was able to make more systemic changes and promote accountability within the activities. It is also helping spread practices beyond the immediate reach of the CARE project.
  • Work in urban areas: One of the unique components of this project includes work in the poor urban areas in Guatemala City. There is a focus on reducing child labor, and the project has been successful in moving from education sessions only for mothers to including 20% men in every child welfare training sessions.

Want to learn more? Read the project report to Cargill