Rural empowerment in Costa Rica and Guatemala

Filed Under: EARTH News
Date: December 27th, 2022

EARTH University has announced that it will extend the Resilient Communities Food Systems program for another two years. This program empowers Costa Rica and Guatemala farmers to improve land management with sustainable methods, increase crop efficiency, and connect with new markets to sell their products. The Walmart Foundation has generously given a second grant of $700,000 to advance this project.

Since earlier this year, at least 10 farmer producer organizations (FPOs) have been trained in precision agriculture techniques, giving them the knowledge and technological tools to improve their farms’ productivity and environmental sustainability. They have also received support to strengthen their organizational structures and guidance on accessing new local markets. As with the first phase, the program is led by EARTH Futures, EARTH University’s global solutions center. It will focus on three specific components:

  1. Precision agriculture to sample and analyze soils and foliage to obtain specific recommendations for improving crop production and sustainably managing resources. EARTH Futures professionals will provide ongoing guidance throughout the program.
  2. Create a solid management structure and action plan to ensure the long-term sustainability of their businesses. EARTH Futures will analyze the organizations, identify areas for improvement, and build leadership within the work teams.
  3. Establish strong relationships between the FPOs and their communities to create healthy business ecosystems. EARTH Futures will work with the FPOs to expand or find new alternative markets for their crops and value-added products.

“This program, made possible thanks to the Walmart Foundation’s philanthropic support, is an excellent opportunity for EARTH University to consolidate a new model that allows small- and medium-scale farmers to expand their vital role in building more sustainable food systems. The program participants in Costa Rica will be farmers from Guanacaste and the Caribbean region, who generate initiatives with high value-added potential,” said Javier Artiñano, Director of the Developing Solutions program at EARTH Futures.

In the program’s first two-year phase, following a $935,000 initial grant from the Walmart Foundation to EARTH University, 303 farmers from seven organizations in Costa Rica and 117 farmers in Guatemala directly benefited. 100% of the Guatemalan farmers were indigenous and belonged to three organizations in the Sololá province.

Results of the program’s first phase include:

  • 80% of the farmers now have a clear plan to improve production efficiency.
  • 85% of the participating farmers reported increased yields.
  • 70% of the FPOs gained more than three new potential customers.
  • 100% of the FPOs increased their membership.
  • 100% of the FPOs reported feeling more confident in approaching potential customers.
  • 100% of the FPOs included youth and women as organization leaders.

“Thanks to the project, we understood that we had to innovate to stay in the market during the pandemic. Today we have new partners in the organization, and new customers buy our coconut-based products,” said Marleny González, manager of Coopecocotour. This Costa Rican company participated in the program with positive results in adapting to a constantly changing global market.

In partnership with the Walmart Foundation, EARTH Futures has been instrumental in transforming rural communities in Costa Rica and Guatemala and improving the quality of life for hundreds of people committed to their businesses, the environment, and efficient food systems.