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Women’s Project Preserves Cultural Heritage of Mayan Food System in Guatemala

In honor of last month’s International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22nd, we are spotlighting our partners at Qachuu Aloom in Guatemala. Over the past year they have developed a health and nutrition project to strengthen cultural identity and the Mayan-Achi food system. The project aims to preserve knowledge about local plants and seeds, and, as a result, safeguards biodiversity in the area. It also contributes to improved health in families, and promotes community well-being through the rescue, conservation, and use of native plants with high nutritional and medicinal potential.

The initiative focuses on three key areas:

Strengthen maternal and child nutrition through the production and use of plants with high nutritional content. The project supports the creation of mother-to-mother exchanges. This methodology focuses on workshops where women can share knowledge with one another, covering a variety of topics ranging from infant nutrition to the preparation of healthy foods. By orienting the project around mothers, the potential for adoption and implementation is greater because moms and women tend to oversee the health and nutrition of the entire community.  

Rescue local knowledge and practices around edible and medicinal plants for comprehensive and preventive health. The project preserves local plant species through education and workshops focusing on the importance of diversified crops and plants high in nutritional or medicinal value. Members are also taught to harvest and process these plants to take advantage of their nutritional and medicinal value. When communities have access to local, medicinal plants their nutrition improves. They also save money when they no longer rely on buying food from outside of their homes.

Improve the commercialization of organic products and medicinal plants so that the members and partners of Qachuu Aloom have the opportunity to expand the economic margins of their families. The project promotes monthly visits to 12 healthy community stores that exist in eight communities. During the visits, products including amaranth flour, pigeon pea flour, amaranth (small) joys, three cereals flour (amaranth, pigeon pea and corn) and salted squash are reviewed, new products are delivered and a workshop is held to teach recipe preparation. These organic products are kept affordable so the entire community can access them. The products also give women an alternative income stream so they can reinvest in their communities, farms and families.

By focusing on community nutrition, local knowledge of native, medicinal plants and providing markets to sell these organic products, Qachuu Aloom is preserving a local food heritage rooted in women’s empowerment, seed sovereignty and economic opportunity. This holistic approach preserves traditional knowledge around food and offers practical application through teaching individuals to process and sell the plants they grow. Their work also contributes to local biodiversity and the result is better nutrition.

Stay tuned as we continue to watch the outcomes of this initiative on community health and sovereignty.

Seed bank to preserve local seeds

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