GUATEMALA CITY — Feed the Future recently wrapped up its five year Rural Value Chains Project (RVCP) that operated in the western highlands of Guatemala. The RVCP represented a shift in U.S. development policy in Guatemala. Prior to 2010, focus was primarily on food aid and a trade-oriented paradigm, but with the implementation of the RVCP, this changed to focus on a rural growth model designed to create sustainable agricultural practices, as well as food production that would decrease malnutrition in children.
The program targeted 30 municipalities in five different Guatemalan departments: Totonicapán, San Marcos, Huehuetenango, Quetzaltenango and Quiché. The RVCP sought to induce poverty reduction in Guatemala through increased agricultural productivity and improved market access by focusing on three value chains: coffee, horticulture and handicrafts.
Positive results from the program were widespread. Poverty dropped 14 percent in the targeted areas, while agricultural productivity increased by 28 percent per hectare planted. New agricultural technologies were introduced to increase yields and ease stress on the farmed land.
Women’s positions in leadership roles in the value chains increased by 40 percent. Additionally, roughly 249,000 children were under 5 reached with with nutritional interventions designed to decrease the prevalence of stunted growth.
Fungus Takes Root
The largest economic impact was to the coffee value chain when in 2012-2013, a wind-borne fungus known as coffee leaf rust spread through half of the coffee growing area in Central America, causing widespread crop loss. Feed the Future partnered with Anacafe, Guatemala’s national coffee growers association, to provide coffee rust resistant seedlings and loans to farmers reinvigorate coffee growth in the region. Coffee sales rose from $15.3 million in 2013 to $31.4 million in FY 2016.
Economic impacts in the other value chains were also positive. The horticulture chain, which focused on crops such as potatoes, peas and snap beans, saw total sales reach over $15 million for FY 2016. This was an increase of over 150 percent from the previous year. The handicrafts sector developed more than 2,000 new products to be sold nationally and internationally.
These products were primarily developed from locally sourced wool. Overall sales from all value chains totalled $48 million for FY 2016, impacting more than 30,000 producers. Additionally, USAID estimates that more than 20,000 agricultural jobs were created in the target area.
Moving forward, Guatemala will be one of twelve countries worldwide to implement the next phase of Feed the Future. This phase, focusing on sustainable development, will be able to build on the work already accomplished in Guatemala over the last five years.
– Erik Beck