Guatemala: greenhouses mean more varied diet

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

  • Greenhouse 1Maricela Barreno with the developer Miguel Hernandez. (Guatemalans living in the hills can squeeze better produce out of the earth with the use of greenhouses.)
  • Greenhouse 2Maricela Barreno (Guatemalans living in the hills can squeeze better produce out of the earth with the use of greenhouses.)
  • Greenhouse 3Guatemalans living in the hills can squeeze better produce out of the earth with the use of greenhouses.
  • Greenhouse 4Guatemalans living in the hills can squeeze better produce out of the earth with the use of greenhouses.
  • Greenhouse 5Olga Tumax (Guatemalans living in the hills can squeeze better produce out of the earth with the use of greenhouses.)

Between 2005 and 2009, the Conference of Evangelical Churches of Guatemala (CIEDEG) implemented a food security project in 18 communities in Totonicapan municipality, Guatemala, a town with high poverty, limited access to water, degraded soils and high deforestation.

In total, 475 Indian families were involved. The project began by identifying the main production problems of the families in the project. It then promoted soil conservation, use of organic fertilizers and green manures, and natural insecticides.

As the project area is 2500 meters above sea level, the weather can be too cold to grow some plant varieties. Project staff built greenhouses and micro-irrigation systems to help families produce their own vegetables. In the beginning, they faced constraints as the water committees in the communities prohibit the use of water for agricultural purposes. CIEDEG had to meet other organisations to develop alternative access to water.

The project used a methodology called ‘Farmer to Farmer’, a system that encourages trained farmers to share their experience and skills. It incorporated men and women farmers.

CIEDEG found that the failure of vegetables such as sweet peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes in adverse conditions was the most significant problem for many families in rural Guatemala. Before the project, these classes of food were not produced in cold areas. Rather, people had to buy them in the markets of neighbouring municipalities.

Now, thanks to the project, many families have greenhouses, which supply them with excellent produce. Before 2004, people had never produced vegetables in the backyards of their houses. The project became a forerunner to other similar projects.

Initially, the priority was food production for home consumption. However, surpluses were produced which were marketed locally, giving the beneficiary families some income to support themselves.

People also built greenhouses to produce mainly tomatoes and peppers, food products which are part of daily consumption.

Francisco Carrillo lives in Tzununá Paraje Casa Blanca village, in Totonicapán department. At 32, he has three children, four sisters and two brothers to support – a total of 10 people in the family.  When Francisco joined the project, he was given a list of materials needed to build a 15mx15m greenhouse.

Francisco planted 650 tomato plants. After six months, he had managed to improve soil, add 30 sacks of organic fertilizer that he purchased from his neighbours, as well as 80 sacks of organic matter and the use of drip irrigation.

“I'm very grateful and happy with all the brothers and sisters of CIEDEG… who have supported us in this little job because now I feel I have new hope for my life and my family that I had not previously considered.”

In all, Francisco Carrillo reported a harvest of 727kg of tomatoes worth $564. He and his family now consume the tomatoes and sell the surplus to neighbours and at the local Totonicapán market.