In Guatemala, the summer rains have always allowed for the abundant cultivation of maize – staple crop of the Maya and the basis for their rich 5000 year history. But in the last decade dry conditions during the rainy season have become severe and alarmingly persistent. Water is life, and without it maize crop failures have become the norm.
The new reality of drought threatens to completely undermine the livelihoods of Mayan subsistence farmers, and for many it already has. Often unable to cover basic living costs, families are left with no choice but to send their loved ones on a perilous journey north to the US.
Finding a sustainable and equitable solution to extreme climate pressures is a task of global magnitude, but the fight starts here at the community level. Voces y Manos’ Climate Resiliency Project is a youth-led effort to promote climate-resilient agricultural practices. The project begins with deep listening: Indigenous youth will interview their communities about ancestral practices, conduct a baseline survey to understand the needs of individual families, and lead capacity-building workshops to bring adaptation strategies to life.
Based on what youth learn from their elders, Voces y Manos interns and staff will begin working with families to expand agricultural practices that are culturally sustaining and ecologically sustainable. After three years, 250 families will have been trained in resilient agricultural practices including soil conservation, parcel diversification, and reforestation. In addition to the direct benefits provided to families, skills learned will allow youth to continue practicing data-gathering and sustainable agriculture methodologies, thereby expanding their own employment opportunities and improving their families’ economic conditions.