Building Leaders Through Food Security

By: Satya Naageshwaran

Marcelo Martín Mendoza and his wife, Carmelina, had a small farm in the Western Highlands of Guatemala and a family of six to provide for. They were struggling.

Through our food security partnership with Save The Children, PAISANO, Marcelo and Carmelina received training in sustainable agricultural practices as well as in health and nutrition.

Since 2012, more than 26,000 rural households in the region have benefited from PAISIANO, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Food for Peace. The program increases economic productivity and encourages community members to join Community Health, Food and Nutrition Security Committees to share best practices.

Thanks to getting involved with the program, the Mendoza family now has a steady source of food, extra income and a new perspective on stability and financial security. The couple also has emerged as community leaders who encourage their neighbors to practice sustainable agriculture techniques that conserve soil and improve their crops. These practices have helped increase profits, decrease malnutrition and improve the overall health of their community.

In rural areas, such as the Western Highlands, food insecurity is widespread and hurts the health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations. We began working in Guatemala in 1974 to implement projects – such as PAISANO – that diversify agricultural practices, improve the health and nutritional status of women and children and help communities become less vulnerable to disasters.

And the fruit of PAISANO’s labor best comes to light with the success stories of individuals, like Marcelo and Carmelina, who have worked with the program through difficult circumstances and emerged as leaders for their family and community.

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Another success story from the program is Heidy Armas. Initially hesitant, Heidy joined PAISANO’s Women Empowered (WE) program, not realizing just how much it would change her life. She achieved great success with the program’s financial savings group and was eventually promoted to a leadership position within the Commission of Health, Food and Nutrition Security.

On top of the training received and job she earned through the program, Heidy gained the strength to speak confidently and follow her dreams fearlessly, making her a strong role model.

Marcelo, Carmelina and Heidy’s stories highlight the great strides PAISANO has made within Guatemalan communities. The training programs, activities and general support our staff provides help alleviate poverty, decrease chronic malnutrition among pregnant women and children, allow youth to gain skills needed to improve the economy and create a more sustainable future in their communities.

Satya Naageshwaran is a Marketing and Communications intern for PCI.