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Elisa Hernández: Making a difference in every community she visits 

Elisa Hernández, Semilla Nueva
Elisa Hernández, Semilla Nueva ATC, visits with farmers in Chahal, Alta Verapaz.
Elisa inspects a recently planted field in Quiché.

Elisa Hernández, one of Semilla Nueva’s 10 Commercial Technical Advisors, known by the Spanish acronym ATCs, is passionate about her work. “Every year, I work with over 400 small farming families who can transform their lives using our seeds,” she says.

Semilla Nueva’s ATCs are crucial to expanding the use of biofortified seeds in Guatemala. Assigned to different parts of the country, they promote biofortified seeds, establish demonstration plots, and provide technical assistance to small maize farmers. They are Semilla Nueva’s primary link with the farmers we serve.

Elisa is responsible for the northern regions of Ixcán, Quiché, Sayaxché, and Petén. This month, she is working with 40 families, conducting home visits, explaining the advantages of our seeds, and helping farmers improve their yields. “Each time I return to a community, it’s so rewarding to see more and more farmers planting our seeds,” she explains.

One of Elisa’s most memorable experiences was with Gerson Túnchez in the village of Las Muñecas in Ixcán, Quiché. Gerson, his wife, and two children lived in a dirt-floor room with walls built of sticks and mud. Elisa recalls, “Gerson relied on income from occasional odd jobs in his community and had a hard time providing for his family. But last year, he received donated seeds from Semilla Nueva and harvested enough to generate nearly $960 in income”. He used this money to buy wood and cement to improve his home and saved enough to buy seeds for this planting season. He is grateful for our support and looks forward to another successful harvest.”

In Guatemala, it isn’t common to see women working in agriculture. When asked about her decision to study agriculture and to become an ATC, Elisa explains, “I come from a family of women who have taught me that anything is possible. My mother always encouraged us to break the stereotypes and machismo women face in this country.” Elisa believes that professional women have a lot to contribute to the agricultural sector and wants to see more of them pursue careers in related fields. “My message is always: if I can do it, you can too.”

“I love everything about being an ATC–getting up before sunrise, the hard work, the smell of the soil, the beautiful fields planted by the farmers I work with, and the relationships I develop with so many families. I get great satisfaction from knowing I can make a difference in every community I visit.”