Six years ago, the founders of Semilla Nueva envisioned the development of sustainable systems to improve the lives of families in Guatemala through agricultural technologies.
That remains our goal. Yet what does that mean – what is sustainable? The word has become diluted in the development world, tossed around to mean anything from earth-friendly to viable long-term. Out of context the word has become basically meaningless.
When Semilla Nueva refers to sustainability, we mean solutions to deeply rooted problems that can be led by the very individuals they are intended to help. These solutions can endure the long haul without depending on outside resources. If done correctly, this kind of sustainability is powerful, as people lead local development and take ownership to resolve severe problems in their communities. Recognizing the value of our approach to sustainability, One Day’s Wages, an organization that supports leading international non-profits alleviating poverty around the world, is investing in our ability to scale our sustainable solutions through a generous matching campaign that is currently underway.
Semilla Nueva has already proven that our methodology for achieving sustainability is possible. Earlier this year, local agricultural education – initially sponsored and developed in 25 communities by Semilla Nueva – saw huge strides in becoming independent of our organization, as local governments took over financial support of these community agricultural education initiatives. Semilla Nueva has transferred the ownership and leadership of these groups to community members, now paid by local institutions, ensuring the groups can continue beyond our support. In August and September, these leaders will be responsible for teaching over 50 local farmers how to cultivate income-boosting short-duration rice, guiding them through the process of setting up and caring for experimental parcels – a process usually led by Semilla Nueva field technicians. Our vision of farmer to farmer education is now fully in the hands of local residents invested in their own agricultural development – we gave them the tools, and they are leading the charge forward.
Now we are looking to do the same with the fight against malnutrition, making sure that Guatemalan families have access to better seeds to improve their own nutrition, without depending on government handouts or the work of Semilla Nueva. Furthermore, we want them to be able to incorporate these more nutritious biofortified crops into their diets year after year.
One Day’s Wages is supporting Semilla Nueva as the team hones in on Guatemala’s malnutrition crisis, a major factor holding the nation back from reaching its full potential. There are myriad efforts across Guatemala to alleviate this crisis, from community gardens to nutrition education to seed handouts. Yet the nation has risen to the third most malnourished nation in the world in the last two years. Clearly, there is something missing in the system intended to improve nutrition in communities most in need.
That’s where we come in. In 2016, our staff assisted nearly 3,000 farmers on the southern coast to plant a variety of Quality Protein Maize, which can be saved and replanted year after year. Through trainings, we will now work with a minimum of 1,000 of these farmers to correctly harvest and save this seed. Being able to replant seed means Guatemalan communities will not need to rely on seed handouts or face the fear of how they will feed their families the next year. And corn isn’t the only seed we’re helping farmers plant year after year – with short duration rice, farmers can continue to plant and harvest a crop that not only provides food for families but additional income for harvests to come.
Next we prepare to take on an even bigger challenge: ensuring continued access to this solution through affordable seed sales. Semilla Nueva understands that handouts create dependency, which is by and large detrimental and disempowering to communities. Promoting nutritious seed through social marketing efforts and later selling it locally at fair prices creates a new means for making biofortified seed easily available to thousands of families. In 2017, Semilla Nueva is using this methodology to see over 1,100 additional families choose biofortified seeds to plant in their fields. Our past work in developing farmer to farmer networks and empowering women to be agents in their families improved nutrition will help to spread this tool beyond our reach as well. Beyond seeing the solution become sustainable in Guatemala, these sales are also intended to create sustainability for Semilla Nueva, reducing our dependence on outside inputs and donations to keep providing our services to those who need it the most.
One Day’s Wages has dedicated a generous match to help Semilla Nueva reach a total of $30,000 before September 30th. We thank One Day’s Wages and all who have supported and pledged to our campaign so far to help us reach this goal. You are allowing us to liberate generations from being caught in the vicious cycle of poverty by improving nutrition across the country.
With your support, we will reach over 12,000 additional individuals in 2017 with nutrition and income boosting crops they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. Creating a sustainable system for access to nutrition and food security through biofortification is possible as soon as next year.