Guatemala has achieved a minimum progress in the reduction of chronic malnutrition, where more than 30% of the entire population of the country has incapacity to cover the food and nutrition needs on a long term or permanently. Prevalence reaches 70% of rural areas, mostly indigenous. The delay on growth in the early infant years is directly related to the morbidity and infant / child and maternal mortality and is a permanent impediment to health, productivity and prosperity.
The key factors that contribute to high rates of chronic malnutrition are multifaceted, and include: null dietetic diversity (corn represents 70% of the diet and in some cases more than 90%), weak dietetic practices for infants and women (1,000 days window of opportunity) and poor water access, sanitation and hygiene practices (WASH), all of them related to the detriment of poverty and inequality, deriving in a “vicious cycle” of POVERTY-MALNUTRITION-EXCLUSION.
Behind these variables and restrictions is the low investment in agricultural research and extension to increase productivity (Post-harvest loss reaches 35%), the complete loss of the crops for subsistence farmers in the face of climatic variability (Post-harvest loss reaches 70% to 100% in this cases) and the threats of diseases in their main source of nutrition (presence of multiple mycotoxins drive to less nutrients absorption and other diseases) that Guatemalans currently have in rural areas of the country.
The POST HARVEST LOSS AND INNOVATION LAB GUATEMALA (PHLIL) addresses the previous identified breaches and has been implemented by SHARE, a Guatemalan non profit working in the country since 1987, in the initial stage (2014-2018) the project focused its efforts in the Western Highlands of the country and worked to empower small farmers from remote areas, with the objective to improve the availability and food safety of corn for human consumption, contributing to the nutritional needs of rural Guatemalan families.
Through research of local farmer practices in the early stages of the project it made consensus of the cultural relevant corn management, it analyzed the levels of harvest and post-harvest loss and the causes, and also studied the contamination of the corn at the different stages of the corn chain, then the project proposed and tested improved practices for corn production among the farmers, including cultural accepted technologies and developed special education materials that were culturally relevant and highly visual.
The project reached more than 500 families of small farmers and rural agronomic extensional agents that multiply the knowledge with a better approach to their corn management and storage.
The project also studied the feasibility and acceptance of a POST HARVEST KIT, that included the cultural relevant technologies preferred by the small farmers that could enable them to produce and storage their corn properly. The sales channel selected for the kit was the micro-credit that includes the corn management training and materials.
On the second stage of the project (2019-2021) SHARE and the PHLIL will address the medium to big scale farmers and corn producers, located in the Lower Lands of the country, with the same objective to improve the availability and food safety of corn for human consumption, contributing to the nutritional needs of rural Guatemalan families, allowing the completion of the characterization of the actual state of corn and its stakeholders.
To achieve this, the PHLIL has established within its objectives the development of a cooperation alliance for the project, which broadens the impact of the objective by exploring new market opportunities with the understanding of local conditions through a Pilot Project for a Micro-credit for the Post Harvest Kit.
The Pilot Project will evaluate and provide the necessary inputs to define the final model for the Micro-credit Product for the Post-Harvest Kit, which can later be replicated throughout the country.
Through the pilot test the project will respond to the ongoing food security crisis in the country, working shoulder-to-shoulder with vulnerable populations to improve rapidly to their food production availability.
The characterization of the medium and big corn producers and the expansion of their capacities will enable them to access new markets.
Methodology and Timeline:
The pilot project implementation is proposed for a period of 12 months, and will include a market feasibility study in the lowlands of the country, the adaptation of communication materials and the evaluation through out the project; alongside the efforts of the PHLIL activities that include the research of practices and toxins, adaptation of materials that will later be used on direct training of farmers. The estimated date of start of the pilot project is June 2019.
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