Food security with cultural relevance in Sololá

Food security with cultural relevance in Sololá

in News
Natalia Palomino
Natalia Palomino
Coordinadora de Comunicaciones | Latinoamérica

In Guatemala, food and nutrition insecurity causes stunted growth in nearly 50 percent of children under the age of five. Chronic malnutrition affects 70 per cent of the indigenous population according to the latest National Survey on Maternal and Child Health in Guatemala. Developing recognition, respect and understanding of the socio-cultural differences of indigenous peoples is a necessary component of fulfilling the right to food for indigenous communities. This approach is known as 'cultural relevance' or ‘fit to culture'.

This is why, since 2023, a group of 15 public and private actors have been coordinating solutions in line with the community agreement and indigenous beliefs, as well as the Guatemalan Municipal Food and Nutrition Security Policy (SAN).

This policy aims to guarantee the health, availability, access, consumption and use of food for households. It links family and organised producers to programmes such as school feeding, improving family production systems and better diagnosis and treatment of cases of acute malnutrition in children.

"We work with cultural relevance. The prioritisation of these aspects is based on the information gathered during the consultations, taking into account the capacities of each community," says María Fernanda Pierri, project coordinator at Rikolto, who has been involved in planning the policy's implementation path.

Together with Mayan community associations, a plan for implementing the policy was promoted and approved last October. The aim was to involve the entire population and ensure that no one was left behind.

A popular version or user-friendly guide to the policy was the first action to be taken. The material will be disseminated this year and translated into the Kaqchikel language (a member of the Quichean–Mamean branch of the Mayan languages family) to ensure local and cultural appropriation in Sololá.

David Saloj, a member of COINDI, explains: "The organisational and socialisation part of the policy is very important. COINDI works with Rikolto on the popular version and also socialises the policy with 86 organisations in the National Network for the Defence of Food Sovereignty in Guatemala, including municipal councils and authorities, associations, farmers' unions and agroecological markets.

COINDI participates in the meetings of the Technical Commission for School Feeding. It defines school menus and coordinates the availability of food.

Other activities are nutrition fairs, seed fairs, agricultural and handicraft fairs in the communities and support for community groups for organic food production. The policy continues to be implemented on the basis of consultations with COMUSAN and the communities in the sector.

The cultural vision of the communities is so influential that a four-year cycle has been considered. This cycle organises efforts and assigns "cargadores" – or carriers (according to the Mayan cosmovision) – to ensure the success of the initiative. Mayan philosophy refers to 4 carriers of time: Iq, Kej, E and No'j. Each carrier is assigned to rule a cycle or year Ab'. The one assigned the 2023-2024 cycle is the carrier E'-Pathway, the year for updating strategies, methods, plans and programmes.

"This is unique, even among countries in the region," says Pierri. The policy already has an initial budget, which will be expanded. The energy of each year can determine the success of some initiatives, according to the Mayan Cosmovision.

In 2023, efforts will focus on food and nutrition security in emergency situations, a food and nutrition security monitoring and alert system, school feeding, and the prevention and treatment of malnutrition.

The policy also aims to ensure the procurement and conservation of indigenous and creole seeds, with the involvement of several actors. It respects the organisational choices of the communities and the wisdom of their ancestors.

The Municipality of Sololá (Department of the Environment and Natural Resources), the Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Public Health and Social Development, the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights, Rikolto, Cáritas, Helvetas, Ceiba, Asociación Renacimiento, COINDI and other organisations have participated in the culturally relevant process of developing the policy.

Do you want to know more about our work to feed Guatemala? Contact:

María Fernanda Pierri
María Fernanda Pierri
Coordinadora del Programa Sistemas Alimentarios Sostenibles en Ciudades | Guatemala