Carmela Sacuj is a member of Visión Maya Association, a group of women who produce oyster mushrooms in San Andrés Semetabaj, Sololá, Guatemala. She is one of the women participating in Proyecto REAL (Rural Entrepreneurship for Agricultural Livelihoods), a project which has been underway since 2022 and is led by the EARTH Futures, the University’s global solutions center.
“I managed to raise my children on my own. I am a single mother, and they were able to study because the mushrooms have helped me a lot and continue to help me,” says Carmela.
EARTH Futures, in collaboration with our partners, Vivamos Mejor Association, Funcafé and Anacafé, are pleased to highlight the admirable work of the mushroom farmers who are part of this project. These courageous and committed women play an essential role in promoting sustainable agricultural practices and improving food security in their communities.
REAL’s main objective is to strengthen the skills of the participating farmers through three areas of work:
“This year we have started by making a comprehensive diagnosis of each organization to understand their level of maturity. Having these results, we have identified the main lines of work to strengthen and bring practical solutions to our organizations. Some of the main topics for the trainings that will strengthen mushroom production include equipping members with materials to remodel their modules, inoculation and planting workshops, and providing them guidance is best agricultural practices, hygiene protocols, and substrate preparation. We have also begun a process of strengthening business and organizational skills, supporting the creation of operating plans, marketing channels, segmentation, and market linkage. We believe that by having a cross-cutting approach we will be able to strengthen the APOs (Agricultural Producers’ Organizations) and generate a greater impact,” says Ana Laura Arreaga Urizar (‘19, Guatemala), project coordinator.
Through these weekly expert-led trainings, REAL seeks to enable farmers to standardize processes, streamline their production, increase their legal and commercial knowledge, their income, and grow their business.
“Since I joined this project, I have felt a lot of support from the whole group of members. It has given me the opportunity to have an extra income. It’s a door to being able to be independent and to be able to spend time with my family. They have supported me with supplies and come to give me assessments. I am very happy to be part of this project,” adds participant Heidi Castro Vásquez.
These women not only actively participate in the program’s workshops and training but have also demonstrated a remarkable ability to implement the recommendations provided during the technical visits. The result is an increase in oyster mushroom production and, even more significantly, an improvement in the quality of life in their communities.
“We are pleased to see that the majority of members have begun to implement the recommendations provided. We have had active participation and motivation throughout this year, and we are confident that this will continue in the coming months. We have already noticed results. They have had a stable production and maintain a protocol of hygiene and staggered planting that has allowed them to produce about 800 pounds of oyster mushrooms in the last quarter and reach new customers. They are also in the process of formalizing their legal entity to be able to access more competitive markets and become a model fungicultural production group in the region,” adds Ana.
This project demonstrates that when passion, empowerment and collaboration are combined, it is possible to build a more sustainable and prosperous future. We congratulate all the mushroom farmers involved in this project and look forward to future achievements together.
Project REAL is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through ANDE (Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs) and the Argidius Foundation. Both donors make it possible for EARTH Futures and its partners to implement this initiative that benefits hundreds of people in Guatemala.