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P4P in Guatemala: From Subsistence Agriculture to Commercialization

Purchase for Progress (P4P) started in late 2008 in Guatemala with the support of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. Thanks to P4P some 14,800 small holder farmers –organized in 81 cooperatives—have sold more than 8,000 metric tons of food to WFP and in local markets. In its fourth anniversary, Sheryl Schneider, P4P Coordinator, reviews its achievements and future plans.


GUATEMALA CITY –The P4P initiative has also been supported by the European Union and the Government of Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). According to Sheryl Schneider, P4P Coordinator, the team is characterized by being multidisciplinary (among them are specialists in agronomy, zootechnics, rural development and agri-food economics, in gender and feeding, and safety) and by its strong commitment to the farmers.

1) What has been the most interesting thing about P4P during the last 4 years?

When we started working with P4P we assumed that linking the farmers with the markets required the production of more beans and corn, and of better quality. However, it soon became evident that social and cultural aspects were crucial for the success of the project. Hence, this initiative has focused on topics like organizational development, business rounds and the empowerment of women.

The most interesting thing, for me, has been the change in attitudes, the self-appreciation of the participants as they transition from subsistence farmers to agricultural entrepreneurs. Women specially have shown significant changes in their vision. A genuine interest in working the land and commercializing the product of their labor has awaken in many of them. They are much more open to adopt new technologies, to follow the advice of the field staff and endorse the technical knowledge acquired, to such a degree that many of them are already an important reference for the whole community.

Family from Guatemala City planting in soil2) Working with partners is one of the pillars of the P4P. How has this experience been in Guatemala?

P4P works together with partners such as FAO, IICA (Inter American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture) and NGOs, among others, that have provided lots of support in the area of capacity development.  For example, in the eastern part of the country, the Dry Corridor, AECID (Spanish cooperation) has collaborated with the organizations’ infrastructure; through the P4P, WFP provides market access support. Other agencies like IFAD and FAO assist the organizations with access to credit, inputs and technology specialized on the production of seeds. We have achieved through P4P a synergy of cooperation efforts that allow organizations and communities to be framed in a real development process. As Keith Andrews, Representative of the IICA said: “The P4P is truly an innovative initiative, focused on rural development throughout the chain.”

3) Which results do you consider the most important of this initiative?

Among the results pointed out by actors of the P4P stands out the importance carried by the quality of the grains produced and commercialized. P4P in Guatemala implemented the use of the Blue Box, a portable lab that allows the analysis of grain quality in the field. In fact, the advisors of the Ministry of Agriculture have made several references to the “application of the quality standards of the farmers and small traders in the field.” At the same time, the corn processing industry for flour tortilla (Demagusa) has made a reference “to the increase in the farmers’ production of quality grains.” Moreover, we may say that the 7,000 homes participating in the P4P in Guatemala can guarantee their food security as well as provide a significant part to the supply of food in their communities and in the country.

4) What do you consider to be the lessons learned during this period?

P4P measures success in the tons of grains sold to the WFP and other buyers. For me, success must be measured by the change of mind that occurs when ruralElderly woman laughing dwellers stop thinking in terms of subsistence and open themselves to production and the marketing of surpluses. This leads to the partnership working of men and women, the access to inputs at competitive prices, good agricultural practices, and access to credits for production and trade at reasonable interest rates for the production of basic grains. It also means that people can negotiate with the buyers with their heads held high, sure of their quality and production costs.

5) What are the main challenges P4P faces in 2013?

P4P is an initiative that explores adapting working modalities to the realities of each participating country. In Guatemala we have a special challenge posed by the country’s cultural and geographical diversity. For 2013, we face the challenge of analyzing what has worked and what hasn’t, of presenting recommendations regarding the implementation of this concept to the Government and cooperation projects. A first attempt in Guatemala has been the “Tri├íngulo de la Dignidad” (Triangle of Dignity), supported by the current government, which contemplates technical assistance through the reactivation of agricultural extension services, access to credit, and links with potential buyers, all directed to the memberships of agricultural organizations.