Last month Jocelyn Boreta, Program Director of the Global Exchange Fair Trade stores, traveled to Guatemala to work with some of our producer partners. She shares highlights (and beautiful photos!) of the trip with us:
Weaving Sustains Family During Harvest Time in the Mayan Highlands
The September sun sits low over the cornfields in the Mayan highlands. Hours on a dirt road outside Comalapa, Guatemala, Arcadia Jutzuy bends over her loom while her husband Jesus watches from the eaves of their family’s small home. I was on the road to meet the artisans we work with at Global Exchange, to support their work and carry their voices home with me.
It’s harvest time in Guatemala, where 76% of the poor depend on subsistence crops for their livelihoods (USAID 2010). Jesus should be busy picking corn to fill the family’s winter storage and sell in the market. He anxiously explains that this year’s corn yield is much reduced from the last, as was the previous harvest and the one before that. He can no longer harvest enough corn to sustain the consumption of his family of six, let alone provide for additional income through its sales.
He explains that the soil has been depleted through the use of chemical fertilizers. All across the volcanic highlands, agro-chemicals marketed under appealing names such as Vista Volcanes, were introduced to immediately increase yields. But as chemically induced crops strip the soil of nutrients, farmers must add even more chemical fertilizers to sustain their crops the next season, creating a cycle of dependence on the agrochemical industry. Fluctuating chemical costs and deteriorated soil quality have left many families destitute.
Arcadia now weaves to provide her family with an income. She is the leader of a group of eight Mayan women weavers in the rural region outside of Comalapa who have partnered with MayaWorks, a Fair Trade non-profit organization that works with over 125 indigenous women throughout the highlands of Guatemala to support their families through their weaving.
One mile down the road, Felecita Choguix weaves to supplement her husband’s work in the fields, with the goal of sending their eight children to school. Her neighbor, Quina Colaj, weaves as the head of her family, supporting five children and her husband who cannot work due to an accident.
“The economic stability of women is the first step to securing safety, education, and productivity for indigenous Guatemalan communities.”
Towards this goal MayaWorks provides: 1) ongoing skill development and business trainings; 2) microloans for investment in equipment and small business; and 3) access to education through literacy workshops, scholarships and academic support for artisans’ children.
Global Exchange has partnered with MayaWorks to make an exclusive line of Fair Trade product available to you at our Fair Trade Stores.
As the Program Director of the Global Exchange Fair Trade stores, I am thankful for the amazing opportunity to be able to sit with Arcadia, Felecita and Quina and discuss the real challenges of raising a family and how they are empowered through their work. Arcadia describes her work as being critical to sustaining her family during the difficult failure of their milpa (cornfields). Hopefully through the reintegration of sustainable agriculture techniques, such as the use of nitrogen fixing green manures, organizations such as Semilla Nueva, can support small farmers in a transition back to healthy yields and food justice.
- Enjoy & share photos from the trip, which are now posted on our Facebook page.
- Support Guatemalan Producers: You can directly support the work of Arcadia, Felecita, Quina and many other women living in the Guatemalan highlands this harvest season by visiting the Global Exchange Fair Trade Stores where we carry brightly colored 100% cotton aprons & potholders, pouches, worry dolls, scarves & more!