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Malnutrition and climate change in Patzun - Guatemala

This project is changing farming techniques among indigenous Maya in Guatemala to help them adapt to climate change.  “Malnutrition and climate change in Patzun” also organizes a crop fund to support the communities in times of extreme weather, and provides water systems and efficient cook stoves, among other support, to empower girls and women in these communities.

Fast facts:

  • 50 goats distributed to two communities in 2012
  • Chronic malnutrition among children under five decreased from 43 percent to 14 percent in 2013, helping improve resilience to climate change
  • 858 efficient stoves installed in 2013

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The problem

Poverty and geography make Guatemala among the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, creating a precarious situation for food security. Tropical storms or hurricanes pound the Patzun municipality in Guatemala’s Chimaltenango Department every year, destroying crops of the subsistence farmers who live there. The region lacks regular job opportunities, leaving people in the communities without the ability to earn money to buy food – so when they lose their harvest, they have nothing to eat.

The solution


Behrhorst Partners for Development is carrying out this project to help secure nutrition for Patzun communities. It’s introduced corn and bean seeds that are less susceptible to the effects of climate change, and more sustainable growing techniques like organic agriculture. Highly adaptable goats are also being provided to the communities, in order to increase the availability of animal protein. Family gardens provide key nutrients and also allow families to sell excess produce so that they can purchase basic goods.

Women in the communities have access to a rotating fund that allows them to buy corn when the price drops, rather than only during shortages when the price is inflated. The project has also provided water systems and efficient cook stoves to the communities, and includes a reforestation component as well.

Helping the planet


Efficient cook stoves reduce the need for firewood, helping trees remain standing – reforestation then adds to their ranks. Providing drinking water systems has a similar effect, since less firewood is needed to purify water by boiling it. Healthy forests improve the land and water, not to mention acting as carbon banks. Switching from cows to goats, and to more efficient seed varieties, conserves natural resources like soil and water. Organic agriculture reduces the use of chemicals and burning of weeds, which in turn increases water, soil, and air quality.

Helping people

Health in the communities has improved, particularly among women and children, as a result of better nutrition. With more varied food and income sources, the communities as a whole have been made more resilient to severe storms that can wreak havoc there. Infrastructure like cook stoves and water systems improve quality of life, while the focus on developing Maya women into leaders has empowered them.

Spillover effect

As people within and outside of the communities see that these women are more successful when a climate event happens, they can be expected to take on their altered farming techniques, as well. Since the conditions in rural Guatemala are similar to those in many other impoverished, tropical countries, the project can be replicated at such locations as well.





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