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Baking the World a Better Place

How USAID is empowering Women in Guatemala.

Grindis Villatoro inhales the delicious aroma of fresh baked bread as she pulls a rack from the oven at the bakery she runs with 14 other women. Based in La Libertad in the western highlands of Guatemala, the bakery provides nutritious food to the community and an alternative income to the women of the Peña Roja Coffee Cooperative. The bakery supplements the income they receive from their small coffee plots, which provide an average income of $2000 a year. Women and young people living in the Western Highlands of Guatemala have an especially hard time finding economic opportunities due to age and gender discrimination. This coupled with historically low coffee prices and lower production, due to climate change, is driving young people to abandon their families plots and irregularly migrate.

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USAID's Coffee Value Chains project, implemented by the Federation of Coffee Cooperatives of Guatemala, is supporting women and young people through entrepreneurial opportunities in areas with high irregular migration. Through seed capital and vocational training, USAID is focusing on providing a diversification of income, improved nutrition, and greater social inclusion so that communities are more resilient to unexpected changes.

 

Grindis, who had been relying on her small coffee plot to provide for her family, was looking for economic opportunities when she was selected to be part of USAID’s entrepreneur training program. Along with 14 other women in the coop, she attended Guatemala’s National Technical Training Institute to learn the skills needed to run a small bakery, including how to bake both traditional breads as well as cakes, pizza, and pastries. After completing their studies, each woman invested some of their own funds, complemented by seed funds from USAID, to purchase professional kitchen equipment. The women worked closely with Grupo Gestores, a professional business development firm, to develop a business plan to set a successful foundation for the bakery.

Today, the bakery generates sales of $1,200 a month, $85 dollars per woman. For Grindis this represents a 51% increase in her monthly income from coffee. 

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This income will be invested into my family to improve the lives of my two sons,” commented Grindis with pride.

The women are also using the bakery as a vehicle to improve nutrition in their community by adding natural ingredients that increase their products' nutritional value; such as carrots, oranges, and oats. USAID is improving the livelihoods of 12,000 small-scale coffee producers and their families through improving crop productivity, the adaptation of more nutritious diets, and expanding access to markets.

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USAID is expanding this project to support more than 40 Coffee Cooperatives. Grindis’ strong leadership skills at the bakery led to her being hired by the Peña Roja Coffee Cooperative as an outreach coordinator in nutrition. Grindis, now a leader in her community, is organizing groups of women who are interested in improving their families nutrition and livelihoods.

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About this Story

Written by Ben Ilka, Creative Director USAID/Guatemala.

The Feed The Future / Coffee Value Chains project, implemented by FEDECOCAGUA,  reduces poverty through increased agricultural incomes and improved resilience of small farmers and their families in five departments of the Western Highlands, while improving nutrition outcomes.

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