Trip to Guatemala

Although I unfortunately didn’t find time to write about it, I traveled to Guatemala in January 2014 with a colleague to conduct a training for one of our project teams. What follows is a little bit of information about the trip and a link to photos. Enjoy!

What Project I Was Working With

I traveled to Guatemala with a co-worker to provide training to agriculture extension agents as part of Counterpart International’s Guatemala Food for Progress program. This project is funded by the USDA Food for Progress initiative, created under the Food for Progress Act of 1985, which helps emerging democracies introduce and expand free enterprise in the agricultural sector.

The Counterpart Guatemala Food for Progress (FFP) program is a three-year program that helps to build the country’s capacity to strengthen its agricultural sector. In support of this goal, Counterpart has assessed the needs of Guatemala’s Ministry of Agriculture extension agents and is now conducting a master’s training program to help them improve their services (agriculture extension agents are essentially teachers/trainers who go out into communities and teach farmers how to improve their farming practices in order to raise productivity).

You can learn more about Counterpart’s Guatemala FFP program through the two links below:

Food for Progress in Guatemala

New Project to Bolster Agricultural Productivity of Guatemalan Farmers

What I Was Doing

Stephanie (an organizational development specialist) and I spent a week conducting a training for the extension agents in order to teach them how to understand and work better with communities in a sustainable and inclusive way. Essentially, many of these agents know a lot about the technical components of agriculture but not so much about working with the communities and people they serve. We worked with them on how to conduct assessments of communities and how to identify their agricultural needs in ways that involve the consultation and participation of the community members themselves (and not just looking at the scientific aspects — whether or not people will adopt the technologies, like them, or want them is a huge component of whether improvements will be a success). These assessments, proposed changes, and activities must be inclusive of women and other groups that are often left out of the discussion because they are major agriculture participants whose needs are often not addressed.

In this way, the services these agents provide can be better tailored to the communities they are trying to help (they gain a better understanding of what the actual needs are), and they address the needs of all the groups within a community (male, female, and other groups may not always have the same needs or priorities, so certain needs can be left out if those perspectives aren’t sought).

Approximately 85  extension agents who work in the Western Highland areas of Guatemala participated in this training, which included a field visit to agricultural cooperatives where individual farmers come together to learn and to work for market advantage. During the field visit, the agents practice some of the techniques we had taught them.

After the training, Stephanie and I stayed a few more days in Guatemala to meet with officials from USDA, the Guatemalan Ministry of Agriculture, and San Carlos University to share with them the results of our training as well as more information about our participatory approach.

Guatemala mapA Little About Guatemala

  • Official name: Republic of Guatemala
  • Capital: Guatemala City
  • Official Language: Spanish 60%, Amerindian languages 40% (23 officially recognized Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca)
  • Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs
  • Currency: Quetzal (GTQ)
  • Geography: The northernmost of the Central American nations, Guatemala is the size of Tennessee. Its neighbors are Mexico on the north and west, and Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador on the east. The country consists of three main regions—the cool highlands with the heaviest population, the tropical area along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, and the tropical jungle in the northern lowlands (known as the Petén).
  • Population: 14,373,472 (2013 est.)
  • Government: Constitutional democratic republic where the President is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system
  • Time: 1 hour behind the US East Coast

Photos

You can view photos from the trip here.

Note: For security and privacy reasons, some of the photos can only be viewed if you’ve connected with me through Flickr as one of my “Friends or Family” contacts.