In the last ten years, Guatemala’s food production capacity has declined alarmingly to the point where urban and rural populations, mostly women, now face the challenge of feeding their families with increasingly lower incomes and higher food prices.
The unanswered question is: how to keep eating well if everything costs more and people have less money?
Mary Guachac and Guachac, from rural community Pacutan II, participates in a community meeting on agriculture.
Rural women are those most affected by food injustice in Guatemala as they face discrimination and their contribution to the country’s economy is underestimated by society.
Such discrimination threatens the life of women as they are the last to access already scarce food supplies or are left to eat the least nutritious foods because they have to feed the rest of the family first.
Joan Pu of the Pamaria community with her daughter. Due to food insecurity affecting the community, her daughter has been diagnosed with severe malnutrition
Life conditions of Guatemalan rural women are worst than those of their male counterparts. This is proved by the fact that only 8 percent of small-scale productive land is owned by rural women. They face numerous challenges at all stages of the process to access land ownership - from the formal process to acquire land to the requirement to create cooperatives or associations - which hamper their rights to access, use, own, and profit from land.
Charlotte Xol harvests corn in the small community of Caxlampom
When a woman does acquire the land, she is required to provide 'credit of production' in order for them to join a cooperative or an association for landowners. This long process has hampered their rights to access, use, own, and profit from land.
The everyday life of rural women is marked by a heavy workload (domestic and agricultural), lack of access to education and information, high vulnerability to violence and no access to technical assistance , credit and natural resources that would ensure their livelihoods.
With regards to agricultural labor, rural women are seen as aids of the work done by males, the chief laborers on the farm. This does not take into account the 33.5 percent of women that participate in unpaid labor and the 35 percent that are self employed, adding to the contribution that rural women make to food production, which actually supplies most local markets.
A man carrying fruits and vegetables in the central market in Guatemala
Moreover, women earn 25 percent less income than men, though they are performing the same labor intensive tasks.
Because a sufficient budget to provide technical assistance and to revive a once dynamic industry has not been put into effect yet, rural women working on farms remain in a vulnerable position.
The reality of urban women is not so far from the reality of rural women in terms of strategies to ensure food for their family and themselves.
A woman in her stall selling vegetables in the central market in Guatemala
It is interesting to stroll through a market in any city in Guatemala and start a casual conversation with any of the housewives who stocking up on food supplies.
All agree that goods are very expensive and that they have less and less money to afford to market food.