LAC: Food Security

Women in greenhouse
Women grow chilies in greenhouses in Quiche, Guatemala, supported by the regional food security program. Photo: Nancy Vasquez

Food Security

“In parts of rural Central America struggling with food insecurity and malnutrition, women are taking the lead.” Olga Tumax, a rural farmer and trainer of indigenous women in Guatemala.

“By making communities stronger in leadership and organization, they are able to apply on their own for projects in their municipalities, and are capable of developing their own solutions.” Rosa María Matamoros, agronomist, project manager in Nicaragua.

In partnership with Foods Resource Bank, CWS supports farmers and indigenous communities in three of the most food insecure and vulnerable to natural disasters areas of rural Latin America and the Caribbean:

  • Haiti´s Northwest department and Dominican Republic´s bateyes (Hispaniola island)
  • Guatemala, Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras
  • South America´s Chaco region

In Haiti, CWS is one of the few agencies that focuses exclusively on the most food insecure region of the country, the Northwest, where it supports the gradual development and strengthening of thirteen autonomous rural cooperatives located in remote areas that provide credit, agriculture and livestock care support and training to their more than 4,000 members, many of whom are women. Despite their apparent weakness, these cooperatives are the first to provide relief to neighbors when a disaster occurs. In the Dominican Republic, CWS supports food production and crop diversification, microbusiness development, community organizing and participation and children and adult literacy in Haitian and Haitian-Dominican rural communities called bateyes.

Chilies in Guatemala
Chilies grown in greenhouses by women in Quiche, Guatemala, supported by the regional food security program. Photo: Nancy Vasquez

In Guatemala, CWS supports greenhouse-based food production, crop diversification and livelihoods in programs that emphasize indigenous women empowerment and organizing. In Nicaragua, CWS supports the establishment, operation and expansion of model demonstration farms in the remote and isolated Atlantic region and land banks and sustainable improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene sectors in the Pacific coast. In Honduras, CWS supports reforestation, crop diversification, microbusiness development and participatory water management.

In 2009 CWS and Central American partners collaboratively conducted a nutritional baseline survey in 55 communities in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua to determine the prevalence of food insecurity and child malnutrition. This study found alarming evidence on the status and condition of malnutrition affecting children under five years old in the targeted communities. CWS and partners confronted the challenge, launching the “Growing Healthier” campaign -- a food and nutritional security program helping families develop access to nutritious food year round, every year, improve their nutrition awareness and food practices and improve water systems.

In South America´s Chaco region, CWS supports a bi-national food security and nutrition program in indigenous communities in the Chaco Region of Bolivia and Paraguay.  These communities were traditionally hunter gatherers but due to mass deforestation in the region and the eviction of indigenous communities from their ancestral lands, today they live in conditions of social exclusion and often extreme poverty.  A Food and Nutritional Survey carried out by this program in 2010 revealed that in some communities chronic malnutrition in children under 5 years old is as high as 95 per cent.

The goal of the program is to advance sustainable food and nutritional security in 11 indigenous communities in the semi arid part of the Chaco which has an average annual rainfall of just 450-650 mm and where in recent years chronic drought has exasperated the already precarious food security situation.  The project has supported communities in developing kitchen gardens and in diversifying their crops.  It also supports them in managing livestock projects and in participating in indigenous to indigenous exchange events to enhance learning and solidarity between communities.