Many know Guatemala for its volcanic landscape, Mayan culture and the colonial city of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, Guatemala has regularly faced high rates of poverty and economic inequality with the effects of the COVID-19 exacerbating it. Fortunately, organizations are coming together to form sustainable poverty reduction initiatives in Guatemala which will protect the environment while creating opportunity within Guatemala. The number of people living in poverty in Guatemala is very high. In fact, according to World Bank data from 2020, 47% of individuals live in poverty. As a result, poverty reduction in Guatemala is very important and the emerging poverty reduction measures are vital to improving public health and improving quality of life.
Reducing Deforestation to Improve Economic Stability
Deforestation is a problem throughout Central America’s rainforests due to the high demand for lumber throughout the world. It has caused negative effects on the agricultural environment leading to challenges for farmers throughout Guatemala. Reaching Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while increasing job opportunities is vital to protecting agricultural commodities and decreasing poverty.
Enrique Samayoa, a farmer from El Jute, told Americas Quarterly that environmental challenges and deforestation have led to greater rainfall and flooding. Deforestation leads to this flooding, which trees and vegetation usually absorb, and causes soil erosion. This means that when a flood occurs, it washes away nutrients in the top layer of soil, creating a poor environment for agricultural workers.
Fortunately, organizations like Utz Che’ Community Forestry Association and Sustainable Harvest are leading the effort to create sustainable poverty reduction initiatives in Guatemala. Utz Che translates from the Mayan K’iche language to “Good Tree.” This organization is responsible for protecting more than 74,000 hectares of forest in the mountains of Guatemala.
It is increasing opportunities for Guatemalans by training thousands of families in better farming practices. As the forest provides livelihoods for villagers, Utz Che’ communities are planting trees to improve their lives. Poverty reduction in Guatemala is a key aspect of this Utz Che’s mission because, with a healthy environment, farmers’ livelihoods will flourish as well.
When soil erosion decreases the number of crops that farmers could produce, employees may lose their job which can lead to an increase in poverty. Sustainable Harvest and an organization called ASPROGUATE worked together in 2021 to help decrease gender inequities by focusing on women-owned and sustainably run farms.
Empowering Guatemala’s Youth
Reactiva Guate is a crowdfunding platform for young entrepreneurs which started in 2020. It creates opportunities for young people with business plans to help their communities after the pandemic greatly impacted the economy. This organization appeals to venture capital to invest in young peoples’ ideas to overcome the economic crisis and has successfully raised thousands of dollars.
According to Statista, “31.3% of the employees in Guatemala were active in the agricultural sector, 18.73% in industry and 49.98% in the service sector.” Providing alternative careers for Guatemalans that focus on decreasing the effects of environmental challenges will help improve the quality of life for people there.
A massive vaccination program began in February 2021. Since then, municipal workers have promoted vaccinations by going house to house to reach unvaccinated people. The Guatemala Ministry of Health said that 88.8% of the eligible residents of Guatemala City have received their first dose. These statistics are good news that could bring tourism back into the country. It could create more job opportunities for youth and impoverished individuals.
Revamping Transportation to Improve Accessibility
UNDP is working with Transmetro, a transportation program that began in 2008. It helps expand the bus system in Guatemala City from one bus line to seven. Improving the transit system is vital to creating accessibility to jobs within Guatemala City. Without an available mode of transportation, many individuals are unable to find work. This initiative will create greater access to jobs and education.
These sustainable poverty reduction initiatives in Guatemala are vital to improving the opportunities available to its citizens and while keeping the environment safe and sustainable. This could improve the situation in Guatemala and lead to poverty reduction in the country.
– Robert Moncayo