Background situation

(Maya) women suffer a lot in the macho culture in Guatemala. Some men use most of their money to drink alcohol and little money remains for the woman to take care of her family. Very few women have their own source of income. About 70% of the Maya children are chronically malnourished because of the monotonous staple diet consisting of corn tortillas and black beans. Vegetables, fruits and meat are not often eaten. Because of the widespread deforestation gathering fuel wood takes up more and more time (or fuel wood has to be bought from the small family income). Normally women cook on an open fire. An open fire consumes a lot of wood and the resulting fumes are very bad for the health of the women. Also the use of an open fire is dangerous and serious accidents do occur.

What do we do?

The Guacamaya Foundation helps women to develop a vegetable garden. They pay a small contribution and receive a role of chicken wire to set up a sturdy fence and take part in a small course about cultivating vegetables. They receive seeds, and some vegetable and papaya plants. The women are also given the opportunity to build a sturdy chicken coop. The family has to take care of the necessary wood and receives chicken wire, corrugated sheets and a water feeder. They also receive advice how to take better care of their chickens. Most women have chickens, but they are hardly productive most of all because the chicks die rapidly and in the absence of a suitable chicken coop also adult chickens are vulnerable for bad weather and predators such as opossums.

The foundation has helped in 2014 more than 100 women to set up a small duck husbandry by giving them three young ducks and tell the interested women how to care of them. Ducks are normally much more productive than chickens because they are much stronger. For example ducks are resistant to a number of very contagious diseases, which regularly kill large numbers of chickens. Ducklings are also stronger than chicks and are better able to take care of themselves. The project has developed very successfully and there are many women who started out a year ago with three young ducks and now have more than 30 ducks.

The development of vegetable gardens and assistance women receive to make their chickens more productive and help them keep ducks improves the nutrition of their family. A surplus of vegetables and chickens and ducks can also result in an own source of income for the participating women, which make them less dependent of their husbands. In the last few years many women have received wood saving ovens. This ovens not only use little fire wood, but are also much safer to use than an open fire and cause much less fumes resulting in less health hazards for the women.