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Guatemala’s Youth Chase Their Agricultural Dreams

In Guatemala’s Western Highlands, many youth looking for ways to earn a living face challenges because they lack the skills and resources to either find employment or start their own businesses. For youth engaged in the agriculture sector, these challenges hinder their ability to purchase inputs, like fertilizer and pest control products, as well as apply good agricultural practices that increase their productivity and earnings. Unable to access the formal credit needed to generate income or become entrepreneurs, many of them migrate in search of better economic opportunities.

Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, a USAID-funded effort working to commercialize agricultural innovations in smallholder markets, is partnering with Mercy Corps to change things. Through Feed the Futureprojects like AgriJoven, they’re helping youth achieve success in their own communities and tap into profitable farming in Guatemala.

“For me, AgriJoven is an institution that opens doors for youth,” said Judith Morales Matzar, an AgriJoven group member.

Through AgriJoven, more than 500 young people have formed savings and loan groups. The groups usually have 12 to 30 members, and they are trained on new agricultural technologies and innovations–like integrated pest management practices and improved seeds–that increase agricultural production. The members then use a portion of their group savings to purchase agricultural innovations for their farms and share the technology as they all work on their plots.

Mercy Corps also facilitates formal partnerships between the youth groups and other parts of the supply chain, including exporters and off-takers, or companies that source from farmers, collecting and aggregating their harvested goods. Due to their small-scale production, uniting as a group provides these young farmers increased market opportunities for them to profit from their combined marketing. For example, the AgriJoven project has connected the youth savings and loan groups with horticulture exporter Fair-Fruit, providing a buyer and end market for their produce.

The project is also using the power of media and marketing to help participants become profitable. The groups work with digital media agency Rana Labs on training in video production. Through multi-day workshops, the group members learn video production and editing techniques, and afterward, participants apply their new skills to create extension videos about agricultural innovations, from integrated pest management practices to how to install irrigation systems. The young farmers promote these videos on social media, making information and extension services more accessible to farmers in their communities and beyond.

“AgriJoven offers us a range of opportunities. We learn more, and we can share what we know. Crops can be more productive because of new technologies…which produce good crops to be exported. I believe that in my community, we can achieve this success without having to migrate,” Matzar said.

Matzar has already attended multiple trainings on video production and agricultural technologies through AgriJoven. During a tour of Popoyán, a leading agricultural input supplier in Guatemala, she learned how biological control products can safely and effectively manage pests and how to use them in a demonstration plot of her own.

Currently, Matzar and her fellow group members are producing a series of videos based on their plot to demonstrate the integrated pest management technique to farmers in their community.

“What I want to say to the world, and to all the youth, is that here in Guatemala we can obtain the things we want without having to move to another country,” Matzar said. “We are competent and capable of continuing to fight for our dreams.”

Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation’s new podcast, Partnering for Innovation: The Podcast, will feature Judith Morales Matzar in its first episode. The podcast uses real-life examples to show how supporting private sector growth improves productivity for farmers, entrepreneurs and rural communities.  

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