The mist shrouded mountains and verdant tropical coastlines of Guatemala are incredibly rich in cultural and biological diversity, home to millions who proudly scratch out their livings on steep slopes or in poor coastal soils. These smallholder farmers are disproportionately impacted by the profound environmental, political and structural challenges that face the nation. At New Seed, each one of our team members has been drawn here to help find creative and effective responses to these challenges through a love we have developed for this place that is unlike any other.
Development: Guatemala has a population of 14.7 million and ranks 131 out of 187 nations in the 2011 United Nations Human Development Index. HDI ranks nations in terms of education, life expectancy and income. 40% of the labor force is employed in the agricultural sector, yet agriculture only accounts for 1/5 of GDP.
Malnutrition: According to the World Food Program, the chronic under nutrition rate for children under 5 is 49.8 percent, the highest in the region and the fourth highest in the world. Guatemala is one of the 36 countries which account for 90 percent of growth stunting in the world.
Poverty: The World Bank paints the following picture: 53.7% of the population lives below the poverty line, 13% in extreme poverty, with the second highest measure of income inequality in the world.
Education: 70% of Guatemalan children attend school, resulting in a mean 4.1 years of formal education per adult, according to the United Nations.
Environmental Issues: One of the ten countries globally most vulnerable to climate change, according to the World Bank. Guatemala is being rapidly deforested as farmers and ranchers strive to increase their incomes.
At New Seed we strive to understand and address these problems through a process of experimentation and innovative implementation. We strive to spread agricultural technologies and solutions that are sustainable, decrease environmental impact and improve incomes. We have chosen to work side by side with smallholder farmers to achieve lasting social change for several reasons:
Development: Investing in small farmers has been proven as the most effective way dollar per dollar to reduce poverty. This is especially true because the majority of Guatemala’s poor are farmers (farming first).
Food Security: Rural areas have Guatemala’s highest levels of malnutrition and ground on which a better future can be sown. Farmers can grow new crops which help them nourish their families and their neighbors.
The Environment: Agriculture is the world’s most environmentally destructive activity. We strive to help farmers grow sustainably, which helps them reduce their impact and decreases the need to clear forests for agricultural land.
Economics: Balancing crops for local consumption with exports helps farmers diversify and stabilize their incomes while also helping to feed the world. This approach addresses several problems: increased incomes enable children to attend school and provides economic opportunity; crop diversity helps to tackle malnutrition and economic fluctuations.
We develop and implement solutions through the farmer to farmer method of experimentation and collaboration. We collaborate with individual farmers, communities, local partners and government agencies to foster the learning and sharing of the techniques with the hope of impacting the millions of Guatemalans who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.