The Agriculture Initiative for the Kekchi people of Guatemala
Updated: Feb 25
The Kekchi people (Mayan) have been a persecuted people ever since they were attacked by the Spanish conquistadors. However, they were able to avoid the conquest by escaping into the rugged mountains of Alta Verapaz. After the Spanish conquest, they were continually harassed by various factions – including the Guatemala government – which left them no choice but to eke out an existence in the harsh environment in various mountain ranges in Guatemala and Belize.
In 1877 much of their good farm land was seized by large Spanish landowners and many of the Kekchi people were relegated to slavery. The others had no choice but to establish their communities in remote locations. The persecutions of this people has a created a society that has had to struggle to survive, and most of these people are involved in living off the land or subsistence farming. Many of their homes have dirt floors with stick walls. They are subject to the weather and these last few years of drought has left them very little to survive on.
In order to provide food for their families the farmers have had to raise their crops on steep hillsides, which has resulted in very poor yields. So, at best, they find themselves in survival mode.
These Kekchi people are very special and are fully capable of making significant strides if given the opportunity.
This is where Welcome Hand comes in.
We have encountered similar experiences in Africa, and other developing countries, and feel that we can greatly
improve their financial status.
Our goal this year is to set up a Community Development Center which provides a way for them to set up a sustainable production and marketing program.
One of the lessons we have learned is to first establish a market outside of the community – where we will acquire contracts with marketplaces that will insure good returns. We will then set up agreements with these small farmers to provide them with crop production inputs that will be necessary to raise crops under the (GLOBALGAP) requirements.
These are fairly sophisticated programs that utilize the official principles and requirements of “Good Agriculture Practices” (GAP) and also the requirements "Good Handling Practices" (GHP). We have assisted other farmers in a number of developing countries and feel comfortable that these programs could also be initiated in Guatemala. Some of these programs have been under the auspices of USAID, a division of the U.S. State Department.
After reviewing marketing options, we will start out by providing these farmers with the necessary inputs – so they can produce high yielding crops. They will keep a portion of the crop for their family food needs. Another small portion of the crop will go to extremely poor families that are within the Kekchi community, and the rest will be sold.
We then return the funds to them that came from the sale of the produce – except for minor marketing expenses and enough money to provide operating expenses for the following crop.
We think $100 per family will get us started.
This is set up so it is sustainable and will provide the way for the farmers to become self-sufficient.
Every year we will add on new farmers as we receive additional donations.