New project to bolster agricultural productivity of Guatemalan farmers

USDA program to assist local cooperatives

ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 15, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new program will take on the Guatemala's deep-seated malnutrition and food insecurity by improving agricultural productivity and expanding the availability of financial services to farmer's cooperatives, Counterpart International announced. (www.Counterpart.org)

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20110818/DC54764LOGO)

"A key element of our strategy is to focus on modernizing both agricultural techniques and the organizations that support farmers," says Joan Parker, President and CEO of Counterpart. "These two activities will directly improve the lives of small-plot farmers and at-risk villagers."

With half of the indigenous population living in poverty, chronic malnutrition rates in the Guatemala's poorest regions are the fourth highest in the world, according to the World Food Program. Those same areas suffer from degraded soil, drought, low agricultural yields and rising prices of farm products such as fertilizers and seeds, which make it difficult for producers to provide for their families and communities.

Community-focused approach

With support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food for Progress Program, the initiative focuses on Guatemala's agricultural extension agents and provides them with advanced technical skills and toolkits, including GPS systems, computer tablets, mobile internet devices and cellular phones with prepaid credits. These kits will enable them to support farmers as they test new techniques and technologies in trial plots of land.

The project will also oversee the development of a training curriculum for future agricultural extension agents.

Simultaneously, Counterpart will work with farmer's cooperatives to enhance their ability to provide loans and other financial services, as well as how to manage and invest in their businesses.

Counterpart will link agricultural producer groups with buyers, and train local financial institutions on how best to work with farmers, who are sometimes perceived to be higher-risk investments.

Overall, the project is expected to directly benefit more than 29,000 farmers, with indirect benefits extending to many thousands more community members. It also strengthens the Guatemalan government's ability to continue the work with ongoing support for its essential agricultural sector.

Counterpart will use the sales profits from 12,000 metric tons of food commodities donated by the USDA to fund the three-year project, which is part of its Food for Progress program. Counterpart has an ongoing Food for Progress program in Senegal, and it recently had initiatives in Vietnam and the Philippines.

About Counterpart International

Counterpart International is a global development organization that works in partnership to empower people, communities and institutions to drive and sustain their own development. It is currently working in 23 countries.

For nearly 50 years, Counterpart has been working in partnership with communities in need to address complex problems related to economic development, nutrition and health, humanitarian assistance and strengthening civil society.

Learn more at www.Counterpart.org.

SOURCE Counterpart International



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