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Guatemala: Poorest Farmers Glimpse Future Free From Hunger

Life is changing for a group of poor smallholder farmers in Guatemala. Improved techniques are helping them produce more food and, thanks to WFP’s Purchase for Progress initiative, they’re able to sell their surplus at a reasonable price.

GUADALUPE – All it took were a few simple, low-cost farming techniques and the certainty of finding a buyer. Sporting a cowboy hat and white shirt, Israel Ramirez proudly describes the transformation he has witnessed in his fields – and at home – in just over a year.

“With these new techniques, we have been able to increase the production of maize from 2.9 tons per hectare to 5.4,” says the farmer, who grows maize in Guatemala’s impoverished southern community of Guadalupe.

“Now my family can put aside some of our grain for the rest of the year. It has also helped my association because we have more maize for sale and we have the opportunity to produce quality grain at a lower cost."

Ramirez and WFP staff talking in a field

Connect to markets

Ramirez is among 3,800 small farmers around Guatemala who are participating in WFP’s  Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative. P4P --  which is being piloted in 21 countries around the world -- is about helping small farmers to produce more, connect to markets and pull themselves out of poverty.

In Guatemala poor farmers are being shown ways to increase yields by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) - two of WFP's partners in the initiative. Farmers learn better ways of tilling, fertilizing, planting and tending to their crops. They are encouraged to innovate by the knowledge that WFP will buy their surplus to use in its operations fighting hunger and malnutrition.

So far, 37 farming associations across Guatemala have learned these environmentally friendly techniques on demonstration plots of land. More than a third of the participants are women.The first P4P demonstration plot was established in June 2008 in Guadalupe, where traditional crops are beans and maize. 

Simple, low-cost

The techniques passed on through the P4P initiative are simple and low-cost. Yet farmers like 31-year-old Ramirez have seen their yields improve dramatically.

“Farmers have managed to maintain their costs and in most cases, have increased their production by 25 to 30 percent,” said Alejandro Lopez, a member of WFP Guatemala’s P4P team.

Under P4P, WFP has already purchased more than 830 metric tons of maize, valued at roughly US$ 327,000.  As Guatemala struggles to emerge from the global economic downturn, those sales are good news for the nation’s poorest farmers.