Trash to treasure

IFAD funding in Guatemala transforms neighborhood dump into a lush garden

In the Guatemalan community of Laguna Los Achiotes, a small grouping of houses just 20 minutes from the regional capital of Jalapa, the stench of rotting refuse is a thing of the past.

Thanks to an innovative project funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the community took a trash heap that was literally ten feet from several homes and transformed it into an organic garden, where they are now cultivating radishes, carrots, onions and other fresh vegetables for the community.

The people of Guatemala have lived on beans, chili and corn since the days of the Maya King 18 Rabbits, and these new crops are allowing for improved overall health for the 30 families sharing the new garden. And the numbers are adding up quickly, especially when you figure the average Guatemalan family in the countryside has anywhere from five to eight children.

“Most of the food we are eating today is coming from this garden,” said Ana Maria Morales, a community member who welcomed IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze on his recent visit to Laguna Los Achiotes with a veritable cornucopia of interesting new dishes that the women are preparing for their families. These inventive offerings included lip-smacking radish-skin pancakes and a bedazzling carrot compote that could have easily made it onto any menu in Paris and New York’s tony eateries.

“We used to just throw the radish skins away,” said Morales. “But we brought in a consultant that taught us these dishes, now we are eating better. And the children love the new food.”

Better yet, with community members using compost to fertilize their garden, virtually everything they are eating is organic. And a new drip irrigation system is ensuring year-long planting and highly efficient water consumption.

“Most importantly, the trash heap in the backyard is a thing of the past," said Josefina Stubbs, Director of IFAD’s Latin America and the Caribbean Division. “This is an area where food security is key. By working together with the World Food Program, who are providing staples such as wheat and rice that cannot be easily grown in this region, we are helping make healthier homes. And a healthy home means a healthy future.”

Photos by Santiago Albert/FIDA