San Luis Sibilá is one of five rural communities in Totonicapán that form part of Guatemala´s Western Highlands dry corridor. Families in these communities survive from subsistence agriculture, farming corn and beans on small plots of land. The scant income families can generate from selling part of the harvest, leftover after feeding the family, is not enough to cover education, clothing, or good nutrition for their children.
Climate change has sharpened the crisis for farmers in San Luis Sibilá, as no rain equals no harvest, meaning no income, increased poverty, and food insecurity.
USAID´s Communities Leading Development (CLD) project implemented by CRS is supporting these five communities through a community-based development approach in which communities are empowered to connect with private sector actors to support economic development initiatives.
With this approach, 75 farmers, including 28 women and their families, channeled support from the private sector for training and supplies to produce chickpea, a crop highly resistant to dry conditions and valuable in nutrition benefits as it is high in fiber and protein.
“Last year was the first time we planted chickpea, we learned to work the crop, it was our first experience. This year we have better technical skills, and more farmers want to work this crop because it is very resistant to the dry season. Water is precious and scarce in this community; this makes it a good alternative for my family. It´s also delicious and good to eat; it has improved our diet as it has a lot of protein and calcium.” -Norma Veronica Tojin Lux, a chickpea producer in San Luis Sibilá.
Families have discovered that chickpea is viable to produce, especially in arid areas like the dry corridor. This is the second-year families will produce chickpea, and like last year’s production, farmers have reached a sale agreement with Yummus Foods, a Guatemalan company with a social focus that produces chickpea-based snacks, dips, and other products.
“I also like this crop because we have found a great buyer in Yummus Foods. We know that safe and fair markets are difficult to find. We will continue searching for other market opportunities and growing our knowledge of this crop. Now we eat better, we even have a chickpea recipe book. I believe this crop will change many lives and bring development to our community.” -Norma Veronica Tojin Lux.
CLD worked with farmers and Yummus Foods to identify chickpea as a viable commercial crop, provided technical assistance, and facilitated conversations and agreements between the company and producers.
This year’s harvest is underway, and farmers expect to produce at least five tons of chickpea in the following months. Yummus Foods has agreed to continue support with a secure market that recognizes families’ efforts at a fair price. The company will buy at least three tons of the production from this area, at a price of at least $1 USD per pound, so producers will earn up to three times more compared to the production of traditional crops.
CLD will continue empowering families through capacity strengthening and business development services to facilitate families’ journey to self-reliance and ability to meet their basic food and economic needs.
“We have strengthened local leadership as well as the technical and productive components of chickpea production; now our focus is on strengthening farmer´s organization and commercial efforts.” -Marianti Ovalle, Caritas Los Altos, CLD consortium partner in the area.