EARTH Futures, our University’s global solutions center, has always made tremendous efforts to create models that advance sustainable agriculture, socioeconomic development, and the quality of life for small-scale farmers in Costa Rica and Guatemala. One of these efforts is Proyecto REAL (Rural Entrepreneurship in Agricultural Environments), a project based on a replicable model used in other projects. Proyecto REAL aims to build resilient food systems in Guatemala that strengthen farmers’ skills in their organizational processes and improve their production methods and market access, among other elements.
The Proyecto REAL team oversees the assessment of 16 organizations from different regions of the country to make evaluations and find opportunities for improvement. The team is also responsible for managing the project, seeking financing, and collaborating with three partners: the Asociación Vivamos Mejor (“Better Living Association”), which has been fostering community development, conservation, and food security in Guatemala for more than 30 years; the Fundación de la Caficultura para el Desarrollo Rural (Funcafé) (“Coffee Growing Foundation for Rural Development”), and the Asociación Nacional de Café (Anacafé) (“National Coffee Association”) that works to improve rural families’ quality of life and supports 14 of the participating organizations in the project that grow coffee.
Together with its allies, EARTH Futures works with Visión Maya, a women’s group that grows oyster mushrooms, with a group of 25 honey producers near Lake Atitlán and with 882 coffee producers in the San Marcos and Huehuetenango regions, two of the departments with the highest levels of irregular immigration. EARTH conducts training workshops on market access and advises participants on creating fairer trade connections and advise participants on how to create more equitable business connections. Vivamos Mejor, Funcafé, and Anacafé assist farmers in improving their agricultural practices, product quality, and resource distribution. In addition, with Funcafé’s support, the project plans to open new educational centers to encourage opportunities through quality education and scholarships in coffee growing.
“The project ends in October 2024, and by that time, we hope to increase the resilience of the 16 organizations and help them standardize processes. We have seen that this step-by-step support is needed to streamline the production process. We also want to provide them with legal tools and reinforce the skills and knowledge they already have. We hope to give them what they need to become more independent and grow their businesses,” says project coordinator and EARTH graduate Ana Laura Arreaga Urizar (’19, Guatemala).
Proyecto 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 enable EARTH Futures and its partners to implement this initiative, which benefits hundreds of people.