ECHOcommunity Conversations

Looking for ideas, recommendations, cautions and concerns

My name is Thomas and I work for Seeds for a Future in Suchitepequez, Guatemala. We have a very well-working nutrition program called “Casa-Granja” to support rural families on an improved healthy diet. Malnutrition and Food Insecurity create a vicious cycle of poverty from which it is very difficult to emerge. To help fight these twin evils, Seeds for a Future’s primary focus is helping rural families ensure their access to enough nutrition-packed food, so children and adults can be strong and healthy.

As with all of our projects, our first steps were to listen and learn. After a year of community meetings and small “get to know you” projects, we could see that an integrated approach was required. Just as food security, nutrition, family income, and health do not occur independently, our program approaches these sectors as parts of a whole.

The practical goal of the “Casa-Granja” or Backyard Farm concept is to share skills and techniques to secure access to sufficient nutritious food.

We coach families in:

  • Understanding nutrition needs, especially for children, and using the foods they have grown in familiar recipes.
  • Maintaining hygienic conditions and procedures in kitchens and food preparation with low-tech methods.
  • Managing household and garden wastes into compost and repurposed materials.

While our main focus is on Nutrition and Food Security, we also work to foster improvements in family income, and we offer additional learning opportunities via our Community Learning Center. Our featured program is the Backyard Farm, or Casa-Granja, which encompasses a self-help method for improving rural family nutrition. It is proving to be extremely successful on several important fronts:

Families are adopting and “embedding” the skills and knowledge they learn in ways that produce a lasting behavior change. Family nutrition is improving, as is the family’s economic health, through better utilization of available space and resources.

As a result of our years of support and coaching in the Chocolá region, more than 1400 families have improved their nutrition and family economy. In many ways, our working method can be likened to an Agricultural Extension Service, but it is much more. While we feature agriculture to ensure an adequate supply of nutritious food, we also teach the basics and importance of nutrition; food preparation hygiene; sensitivity to environmental issues, including recycling, reusing and re-purposing; and always work to instill an interest in learning.

Seeds for a Future, and the Semillas Para el Futuro Field Team are inspired by the success the families achieve as a result of our work.

We hope you too are inspired and will share your ideas, your recommendations, your cautions, and concerns – any contribution that will make our effort better planned, more efficient, and with a better chance of succeeding!

Hi Thomas
What efforts are in place for preserving and storing produce. Also I’m wondering if food loss and/or waste is of significant concern. Thanks.

Hello Thomas
I also work with nutrition and sustainability as a missionary at Shadow of His Wings Children’s Home in Monjas Guatemala. My work involves aquaponics and the use of various open pollinated varieties of garden vegetables, I have available seeds of many green manure cover crops such as Jack Bean, Velvet Bean, Sunn Hemp, Lab Lab and Pigeon Pea. I also have available Tropical Pumpkin, Okra, and a very high producing container tomato from Day3Seeds, The tomato variety was a variety provided by E.C.H.O. and trialed by D3S. Your project looks to be a very successful model for a nutrition program in any developing nation. Maybe we could get together and discuss some time.