Social Inclusion for Small Coffee Producers through Learning Paths
Guatemala’s chronic malnutrition rates are concentrated primarily among the poor and Indigenous people in the rural areas of Guatemala’s Western Highlands. Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world; almost 50 percent of children under five are stunted. Guatemala is a lower-middle income country, as measured by the gross domestic product per capita; however, 59.3 percent of the population lives in poverty — 79 percent of which are indigenous people. Extreme inequality and social exclusion, which stratify society along indigenous/non-indigenous, rural/urban, and gender lines, compound the problem. The poor in rural areas rely heavily on casual employment and are thus subject to high seasonal variation in income levels because of climate variability, crop pests and diseases (like coffee rust), and changing market prices.
Through Feed the Future Guatemala, USAID Coffee Value Chains Project has developed a new extension tool called Learning Paths. This powerful rural development tool is resulting in behavioral changes in the lives of indigenous women and men, with a comprehensive and sustainable approach. The "Learning Paths" is a community space where farmers can strengthen their knowledge and exchange experiences in 33 Coffee Cooperatives located in the Western Highlands. A Learning Path is a cost/effective solution to permanently serve and support 4,283 coffee producers, of which 1,080 are women and 3,203 are men.
Each Learning Path has at least three types of learning stations: coffee production, nutrition activities, and adaptation to climate change (where gender equity and social inclusion — especially Indigenous People — are an essential part of this approach). A leading person associated with the coffee-cooperative owns each station and trains groups of small coffee farmers with the support of the project’s technical team.
The learning coffee production stations are plots meant to learn the use and the applicability of best agricultural practices and innovative technologies to small-scale coffee producers, including the use of new coffee varieties, integrated pest management, post-harvest management, soil conservation, etc.
The home-garden learning stations promote the availability and consumption of more nutritious food. It includes the production of animal units for protein-source food (chicken and egg), and agro-ecological gardens for nutrient-dense foods. This learning station is accompanied by training sessions for the preparation of nutritious recipes along with hygiene and sanitization behavior activities.
The learning paths are a practical and innovative approach that serves for coffee-cooperatives as a sustainable development engine. The Learning Paths promotes social inclusion as it involves the whole family, cooperatives, and communities to improve their socioeconomic conditions by also promoting income generation through entrepreneurship activities targeted mainly for women and youth.
Let's walk together on the route of the Learning Paths.