Flor de Tierra: Rural youth entrepreneurship supporting sustainable food production in Guatemala
"Farmers had been told all their lives that agrochemicals were the best way to produce, that agrochemicals were the modernity. So, working with them to find out that there are more sustainable ways to produce healthier food with things they can sometimes find in their own backyard was a real paradigm shift."Eduardo Benjamín López Velásquez, agronomic engineer and young entrepreneur from western Guatemala
Exposure to agrochemicals in Guatemala has caused serious impacts on human health and on the environment. With the support of rural youth entrepreneurs, family farmers learn how to produce bio-organic agricultural inputs with resources they have already available or that they can easily access.
Innovation and youth entrepreneurship
By working with farmers to produce affordable bio-organic agroecological inputs, young people have the chance to undertake and generate innovation.
Sustainable and healthier food production
Farmers are provided with the possibility of a more sustainable and healthier production
EXPLORE THIS SOLUTION
Flor de Tierra can offer:
- Training modules to support farmers to produce affordable bio-organic agroecological inputs
- A more sustainable and healthier way to produce
Indio Hatuey Experimental Station of the University of Mantanzas, Cuba, Interamerican Institute for Agricultural Cooperation
2018 - 2021
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The strong dependency of farmers on agrochemicals and industrialized inputs presents a major threat to both human health and the environment in Guatemala. To respond to this challenge, a group of young entrepreneurs has joined efforts to develop bio-organic agricultural inputs to meet local needs and support farmers in the production of their own bio-organic agricultural inputs through training programs.
According to the World Health Organization, every year at least 20,000 people die as consequence of agrochemicals. According to the literature, the indiscriminate use and improper handling of pesticides in agriculture over the past three decades have caused serious human health problems such as neuronal disorder, degenerative diseases, abnormal fetal growth, congenital anomalies and cancer in many developing countries.
A 2020 FIAN International study showed that exposure to agrochemicals in Guatemala has caused serious impacts on human health and on the environment. The study shows that Guatemala records the highest known levels of DDT in breast milk and cervices, 185 times the limits that the World Health Organization consider to be “tolerable". According to the Board of Directors of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Health, about 1,200 cases of acute poisoning diseases occur annually in the country, of which between 150 and 200 end in death.
Family farmers in Guatemala are still heavily dependent on agrochemicals and industrialized inputs, as most of them have been educated and trained under the paradigms of the green revolution.
Consumers in Guatemala are not yet aware of the amount of agrochemicals present in non-organic produce and the potential impacts on their health and the planet.
To respond to the problems associated with agrochemical use, a group of young rural entrepreneurs has joined efforts to develop a new technology and catalyse knowledge exchange to spread the innovation among family farmers.
The solution consists of developing bio-organic agricultural inputs that can be produced by family farmers with resources that are already available or can be easily accessed. The main base for the inputs is known is bokashi, a combination of ground charcoal, chicken manure, rice husk, rice semolina, soil and molasses dissolved in water. But the recipe is adapted for each group of farmers according to a participative assessment of their needs and the resources they have available (such as the types of manure, dry straw and corn bran, among other factors).
The solution also includes a participative knowledge exchange through which family farmers can replicate in their communities what they’ve learned from solution organizers. The solution organizers also offer the inputs at a fair price for those producers who can’t (or don’t want) to produce their own inputs, especially for those involved with urban gardens. They also offer technical support through WhatsApp.
Family farmers who have partially or fully transitioned to the bio-organic agricultural inputs have reported substantial improvements in the quantity and quality of their production compared to that of previous methods.
-Validation studies have shown that bio-organic inputs effectively increase total yields by 21.51 per cent over using agrochemicals and industrialized agriculture inputs.
-Validation studies have shown higher quantities of tomatoes per plant and higher average weights per fruit.
-Validation studies have shown that, considering market prices in Guatemala in 2019, fruits and vegetables produced with the bio-organic inputs had a profit margin of 164.93-523.47 per cent, as compared to margins of 59.47-279.63 per cent from using agrochemicals and industrialized agriculture inputs.
-Validation studies have shown a significant improvement in the nutritional value (more protein and minerals and less fat) of fruits and greens produced with bio-organic as compared to food produced using agrochemicals and industrialized agriculture inputs.
-Validation studies have shown that the production costs associated with bio-organic inputs are 46 per cent less than those associated with agrochemicals and industrialized agriculture inputs.
Lessons Learned/Potential for replication
First, the solution must be flexible in order to be adapted for different contexts. Although the general composition of the bio-organic inputs they develop follows the same parameters, they’ve learned that it is important to be creative and flexible to find locally the most adequate resources for bio-organic inputs. Producers themselves are best positioned to help in this adaptation.
Second, scientific evidence is important for convincing producers to use the bio-organic inputs, but cultural change is even more important. In their experience, experimentation and consumer demand were the best ways to achieve real changes in the mindsets of producers.
The solution providers are currently working to improve the enterprise's business model and products, with the main objective of increasing their ability to offer the innovation to different consumers through social media, rural youth networks, family farmers cooperatives and associations.
At the same time, they are working to increase the company's profitability and, consequently, the capacity to expand operations and offer organic inputs and technical support to a greater number of beneficiaries.
Last update: 05/01/2023