Seed Programs International

Guatemala

  • Gardening Time is Here!

     Working the Soil
    Working the Soil

    We thank you so much again for your support of this microproject to produce gardens for widows and elders in the area of Chajul, Guatemala. If you are not familiar with this part of the world, you can learn more about its history and get initial hints as to why there are so many widows, starting at this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chajul.

    There have been two recent developments in this project which is still in early stages of execution. First, our partners in Chajul, the organization ASO-Ixil, determined that many of the widows simply don’t have adequate land at home for gardening, or if they do, the soil has never been improved and the work to do so would be excessive. A creative solution was found: they identified four farmers who will host gardens for nearby widows on their land, 5 widows each. This will provide a land base for those who do not have it.

    In this country we think of most widows as quite elderly, but in rural Guatemala, where so many people are lost at a young age, there is much more age diversity. The identified widows who will benefit from your support range in age from 33 to 84. 

    Second, ASO-Ixil is now comparing vegetable seed prices from sources around their region of Guatemala, and possibly offering seed in the local hardware store. This is an innovative strategy that uses local commerce as a partner in providing aid, rather than setting up a more "handout" type system of just giving people seeds.

    Widows supported by the program would receive vouchers to subsidize the cost at the hardware store. After receipt of the voucher, your donations will reimburse the store owner for the seed cost.

    At this point there are 50 widow households identified and more on a waiting list to receive this gardening support. All are excited for this project to develop. While we are only required to post this one “final report” on this smaller project, we will be sure to post another once harvests begin, so you can see the fruits of your gift emerging from the soil. 

    Again: Thank you so much for your support! You are making a difference in a special community where needs are real and the motivation to improve lives is activated and powerful.

    Graphic from ASO-Ixil Facebook Page

    Graphic from ASO-Ixil Facebook Page

    Links:

  • Growing the Dream

    Manuel Laynez Anay, President General, ASO-Ixil

    Manuel Laynez Anay, President General, ASO-Ixil

    Dear Supporters,

    Today we want to share the story of the origin of ASO-Ixil, our project partner in Guatemala.

    The dream of a Maya Ixil farmer’s coop started with childhood friends: born during a civil war, fear and hunger were the everyday experiences of their childhood. In childhood games they organized their friends to create jobs, and provide food for hungry children and old people. They dreamed and planned to make opportunities that their parents did not have.

    When he was 8 years old, Manuel Laynez’ mother gave him a piglet. He raised the pig and sold it. With the profit he bought 4 more pigs. Manuel’s pig business paid for his school tuition and began the path toward his vision of a farmer co-op.

    Twenty years later Manuel was a university student studying Business Administration. He walked 22 miles through the mountains to catch a bus that took him to Antigua, Guatemala where he had a scholarship for a conversational English Program. His instructor in that program and Bright Star Philanthropy Partners became the catalysts that helped bring to reality the dreams of childhood into a Non Profit Association of 99 farm families: the Association of Farmers for the Social Development of the Maya Ixil.

    Manuel Laynez is in the above photo by himself.  The type of jacket he wears is unique to this community of Maya Ixil. They are woven on a backstrap loom and it takes months to weave the fabric for a jacket.

    In the group photo below, left to right:

    Gaspar Rigoberto Caba Gallego Director of Communications

    Manuel Laynez Anay, President General and legal representative

    Henry Escobar Caba, Vice President and Agronomist

    Noe Olegario Santiago Caba, Director of Finance CPA

    The photo is taken on the steps of the Catholic Church in Chajul, Guatemala. During the childhood of these 4 young men, this church was occupied by the government army which committed atrocities against the civilian population.

    ASO-Ixil Board Members

    ASO-Ixil Board Members

     

  • Mayan Women Partnering for Livelihoods

    Rouse helps organize an Ixil community of women.

    Rouse helps organize an Ixil community of women.

    When we discuss SPI programs, we talk a lot about livelihoods. So, what is a livelihood? A livelihood encompasses the capabilities, assets, and strategies that people use to make a living. And a productive livelihood is an important part of our social, emotional, and economic well-being.

    At their core, SPI programs provide access to resources so people can grow food and establish a productive livelihood. We join with women's gardening efforts in the most impoverished countries worldwide by providing top-quality vegetable seeds and locally-driven support through programs that provide them with a path to empowerment, income, and nutrition.

    One such partnership is our new women’s empowerment initiative in Chajul, Guatemala. Tucked away in the highlands of western Guatemala, the small but vibrant Ixil community of Chajul was devastated by a 36-year civil war. Many indigenous Guatemalan women who survived the horrific violence are living with the trauma of losing family members, friends, and neighbors — just one legacy of the country’s civil war.

  • On the Road in Guatemala with Pop Atz'iaq

    Smiling with Pop Atz

    Smiling with Pop Atz'iaq

    Hi folks,

    Naima Dido, our Program Director, is currently on the road with Nancee Neel in the mountains of Guatemala where they’re working to grow a deeper partnership with a relatively new partner, Pop Atz’iaq.

    An SPI neighbor, Nancee Neel, had served as an advisor and friend of the organization before she introduced us to their work. Established in the 1990s, Pop Atz’iaq has focused on craft-based livelihood development with women and men in the region around San Cristobal, and they have a strong track record of success. Catarina, the organization’s Director, reports that establishing a garden-based livelihood program has been a longstanding goal of the organization and its members.

    For context, craft-based livelihoods depend on international market outlets, and those can be fickle. Garden-based livelihoods are more reliable, and this program will help diversify their members’ options for income. Catarina reports that social and economic conditions are deteriorating this decade, due in large part to the lack of rural development support from the government. Child malnutrition rates have risen to 80% in most of the communities served.

  • Progress for the Elders in Chajul!

    We thank you so much again for your generous support of this microproject to produce gardens for elders in the area of Chajul, Guatemala. At this point there are 20 elders identified and more on a waiting list to receive this gardening support. All are excited for this project to develop.

    There have been several interesting developments since we initiated the project, which is still in early stages of execution.

    First, Our partner organization ASO-Ixil, identified four farmers who will host gardens. This will provide a land base for those who do not have it.

    Second, ASO-Ixil agronomist Henry Caba researched fertilizers that would help improve the soil in gardens in Chajul. Having identified a Guatemalan vendor of an appropriate organic fertilizer, Mr. Caba succeeded in bringing her to the community for a workshop. The workshop participants were the ASO-Ixil Board, local farmer leaders, widows and elders. They also invited some local university agriculture students who will be providing labor.

    Third, ASO-Ixil is now comparing vegetable seed prices from sources around their region of Guatemala, and possibly offering seed in the local hardware store. This is an innovative strategy that uses local commerce as a partner in providing aid, rather than setting up a more "handout" type system of just giving people seeds. Elders supported by the program would receive vouchers to subsidize the cost at the hardware store. After receipt of the voucher, your donations will reimburse the store owner for the seed cost.

    And most recently, our partner Aso Ixil put together a gardening workshop using power point with a projector purchased with Global Giving funds from a previous project! The workshop was attended by widows and elders who are mostly illiterate, and therefore greatly benefited from the visual presentation.

    The next planting season starts in September with a harvest in November. We will be sure to post another report once harvests begin, so you can see the fruits of your gift emerging from the soil.  

    Again: Thank you so much for your support! You are making a difference in a special community where needs are real and the motivation to improve lives is activated and powerful.

  • Project Funded - Seeds on the Way!

    Preparing soil
    Preparing soil

    With all of your generous support, we sailed past our goal for this project which results in a stronger agricultural training program and a little more money to buy tools and needed supplies to boost the success rate in growing these needed vegetables. 

    Seeds are being sent this week to Alex Larkin in Washington state who will carry them to the Ixil region when he visits at the end of March. Selected seeds include: 200 packets each of winter squash, summer squash, beet, cabbage, cucumber, mustard greens, and tomatoes; 300 packets each of broccoli, carrot, and yellow onion; 100 packets of radish. With the high altitude of this part of Central America, cool-weather crops can be grown which are not feasible in some other parts of the tropics. 

    The Roya coffee rust disease which decimated 80% of Central American coffee crops this year has made this project even more critically important. The farmers of ASO-Ixil had first come together with a coffee production co-op in mind. With that income in jeopardy, food needs escalate and the vegetables will be essential.

    The following letter - seen in the attached image - was received by Alex Larkin (translated from Spanish) from the ASO-Ixil Board:

    Dear Mr Larkin,
    By means of this message, please accept our warm greetings on behalf of the administration of ASO-Ixil . We wish that all of your activities bless you and benefit your spirit.The aim of the present note is to THANK YOU for working so hard for the fundraiser for the seeds for ASO-Ixil farmers. We and the farmers are so grateful to you for the effort to benefit the welfare of the Ixil people. In God we trust that we will reach the amount of the goal. and hopefully this is neither the first nor the last donation for the Ixil people. There are great needs in the areas of education, malnutrition, clothing, and more.

    Without further ado, we are very grateful to you.
    Manuel Laynez Anay, General President
    Henry Escobar Caba, Vice President
    Gaspar Rigoberta Caba Gallego, Director of Communication
    Noe Olegario Santiago Caba, Director of Finance
    We at Seed Programs International and Bright Star Philanthropy Partners extend these same heartfelt thanks to you, as donors who make all of this possible.

    Thank you letter from ASO-Ixil Board

    Thank you letter from ASO-Ixil Board
     
  • Update on Gardens for Widows and Elders

    Gardening is a community effort.Gardening is a community effort.

    We thank you so much again for your support of this microproject to produce gardens for widows and elders in the area of Chajul, Guatemala. If you are not familiar with this part of the world, you can learn more about its history and get initial hints as to why there are so many widows, starting at this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chajul.

    Currently it has been 90 days since completing funding of the project and we are asked to file a report, but the hands-on portion of the project work is truly just getting started. It’s a simple fact that agricultural cycles sometimes don’t line up with project funding cycles. In this case, major work on the maize crop completes during February and now, finally, is one of the annual seasons when vegetable planting can occur.

    There have been two interesting developments since we initiated the project. First, our partners in Chajul, the organization ASO-Ixil, determined that many of the widows simply don’t have adequate land at home for gardening, or if they do, the soil has never been improved and the work to do so would be excessive. A creative solution was found: they identified four farmers who will host gardens for nearby widows on their land, 5 widows each. This will provide a land base for those who do not have it.

    Second, ASO-Ixil agronomist Henry Caba researched fertilizers that would help improve the soil in gardens in Chajul. This soil appears dark and fertile, and is rich with some nutrients, but like many volcanic soils worldwide, it is deficient in certain micro- and macronutrients plants need to thrive. Having identified a Guatemalan vendor of an appropriate organic fertilizer, Mr. Caba succeeded in bringing her to the community for a workshop. The region/district (El Quiché) was never before served by this company. A special price was negotiated for ASO-Ixil.

    The workshop participants were the ASO-Ixil Board, local farmer leaders, and those people that assisted with the first garden project.   They also invited some local university agriculture students who will be providing labor to help the widows.

    At this point there are 50 widow households identified and more on a waiting list to receive this gardening support. All are excited for this project to develop. While we are only required to post this one “final report” on this smaller project, we will be sure to post another once harvests begin, so you can see the fruits of your gift emerging from the soil.  

    Graphic from ASO-Ixil Facebook Page

    Graphic from ASO-Ixil Facebook Page

    Links:

  • Vegetable Garden Training Photos to Share With You

    Ixil Mayan Families in Gardening Training
    Ixil Mayan Families in Gardening Training

    Our partner ASO-Ixil held an initial training for vegetable gardening program participants yesterday in Chajul, Guatemala. I wanted to share with you, as supporters, some wonderful photos from that event. 

    Our friend Janet who provides essential US-based support for this project explains:

    "None of the women in this training for the vegetable gardens can read or write.  Manuel (Director of ASO-Ixil) has experience and training in teaching illiterate people who only speak the Ixil language."  So this training is in Ixil, with colorful powerpoint photos to teach those who do not read or write , but are very skilled at listening and interpreting visuals.

    In US schools only 10% of students learn primarily through listening.  I think the board has put together a really skillful approach to training: with a combination of visuals and lessons in their own Ixil language, with follow up in their own Ixil language as they receive instruction in the gardens. As these beneficiaries have never had the opportunity to attend school, it is exciting and important for them to be attending this training in a high school classroom."

    30 initial families have been selected to receive vegetable gardening support in the form of seeds, tools, fertilizers, and training. Each receives a cost subsidy of 25-75% based on their needs. 

    Because much of the vegetable growing will be by women, their small children are with them in the training room. In the first photo, these children are receiving orange juice from SPI representative Carla Rosemary Rodriguez. 

    Classroom - Chajul, Guatemala.

    Classroom - Chajul, Guatemala.

    Classroom - Chajul, Guatemala

    Classroom - Chajul, Guatemala

    The next generation.

    The next generation.
  • Weaving Baskets, Raising Wrigglers

    Teaching weaving of worm composting baskets.

    Teaching weaving of worm composting baskets.

    "Worms for Widows" is underway in Chajul, Guatemala!

    A key element of the project is the sharing of traditional Ixil Mayan basketry and repurposing the baskets to hold worms that can produce fertile soil using local resources. This is traditionally a male craft, so these are brave women who are learning baskets.  You can see the male instructor in the first colorful photo attached. He taught them how to collect and treat the vines gathered on the mountain, and prepare them for weaving. Initial project funds from GlobalGiving were used to pay the instructor and buy some materials needed for the weaving process.

    The second attached photo shows a cooking class organized by our Guatemalan partner organization, ASO-Ixil. The women shown here are some of the gardening beneficiaries who will receive seeds, worms, and gardening support. Our partners recognize that vegetables are not always seen as an important part of the diet except during special holiday occasions and dishes. Growers may be more likely to sell garden harvests than eat them. This is OK too, as the money is very much needed. But with a little training, women can learn to incorporate vegetables into typical dishes. 

    The video link to this report shows women in Chajul making a dish using local ground cornmeal, a dietary staple, wrapped up in swiss chard grown in their gardens. We're so impressed with this part of the work!

    The third photo shows results from the gardens. The man holding the cauliflower here is the son of one of the widows participating in the program, who came to help with his machete and strong back. What an amazing harvest! Cauliflower is a top-five vegetable in Vitamin C content and also will fetch a great price in the local market.

    Thanks again for helping us fund this microproject, Worms for Widows, we are honored to have your support. 

    cooking class

    cooking class

    cauliflower harvest

    Cauliflower harvest

    Links:

Contact Us

Seed Programs International

PO Box 9163
Asheville, NC 28815
+1-828-337-8632

 

Seed Programs Canada (Affiliate)

Registered Charity No. 839858107RR0001
Lombardy, ON
613-406-6100

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Seed Programs International (SPI)

Seed Programs InternationalSeed Programs International (SPI) is a non-profit, tax exempt, non-governmental humanitarian organization.

We work thorough other humanitarian organizations, church groups, service clubs and individual donors, to provide quality seed to impoverished communities in developing countries enabling them to grow some of their own food. In addition to seed, SPI provides critical seed expertise and experience operating seed based self help programs.”

SPI is operated by individuals with over 50 years seed industry experience plus over 20 years experience in vegetable research and production. We also have 15 years experience operating programs that have successfully shipped seed to over 70 countries on five continents. SPI has shipped enough seed to plant over 1,000,000 vegetable gardens, providing more than 20 kinds of vegetables that are rich in vitamins and minerals often missing in people’s diets.