Connections to U.S. private and public funded projects in Guatemala is an example of helping countries’ farmers pull themselves out of poverty. A recent trip by Ertharin Cousin, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies on Food and Agriculture, to Guatemala and the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture's training center was to confirm the value of the assistance.
The Borlaug Institute, part of the Texas A&M University system, has spearheaded multiple agricultural improvement efforts in Guatemala through a U.S Department of Agriculture-funded Food for Progress project which has included the "Agriculture in Guatemala: Technology, Education, and Commercialization," or AGTEC, program.
Many of the AGTEC program beneficiaries are women or members of women’s cooperatives. The project was originated “to help small farmers gain access to new markets, technology and knowledge for producing and marketing high-value agricultural products, including bioenergy crops and non-traditional fruits, vegetables and flowers,” it was explained.
Cousin was told the project has benefited about 7,700 small-acreage farmers in Guatemala in communities with organized farmer groups or cooperatives, and that includes about 2,300 farmers assisted through the transfer of technologies such as eight greenhouses, three irrigation systems, 60 rotation and diversification plots, five cold rooms and two food processing centers.
The question is whether the training being provided will bring the Gautemala farmers into the modern era or simply bring them one small notch higher in production to feed their families other than put much money in their pockets because the Norman Borlaug Institute training is strongly focused on organic production practices.
They learn about alternative sources of income such as food processing, starting a small business and establishing a community garden. By title, the educational classes appear to include business practice training such as floral design business, confectionery and food processing, agricultural marketing.
Exactly which villagers (adult and teens) qualify for the training is not fully explained in the news announcement but some of the contact with villagers is through the Catholic Foundation for Children and Aging, which also funds some scholarships.