by Rachel Turner
Catarina awoke before daylight to prepare for the day. A small candle gave her enough light to see. She washed with water she had hauled in a bucket. She left her home as the sun was rising hoping to find enough firewood–and clients to buy it–to pay for food. Widowed, it was up to her to feed her four children. Later she would work in her tomato garden. The dry land of her home in Sacapulas didn’t always treat her crop well. But she didn’t complain. Almost everyone in her community also lived in poverty. Natural disasters were not infrequent. Climate change hit them hard in the Extended Dry Corridor of Guatemala.
This was normal life for Catarina before she found educational and financial resources through Friendship Bridge. She joined a group of women called a Trust Bank who take out a group loan and receive monthly business training. “That first loan made a big difference in my life,” said Catarina. She used the capital to plant a small tomato farm. Later she joined the Agriculture Credit and Training Program learning from Friendship Bridge agronomists about modern farming techniques that improve crops–especially against climate change. They worked closely to identify the various agriculture risks and then introduced new techniques and technology like drip irrigation.
“I fought really hard for my family,” said Catarina. “With Friendship Bridge I found a great opportunity because before we had nothing, and the Agriculture Program helped me to produce good tomato crops. The difference the program makes here is noticeable since other people who are not part of Friendship Bridge have losses. But me and my friends in the Trust Bank have succeeded as agricultural entrepreneur women.”
Like Catarina, sixty percent of clients in the Agriculture Credit and Training Program who have received the trainings have modified their traditional methods and adopted modern ways of farming. Through this program, Friendship Bridge meets two of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals — Responsible Consumption and Production (Goal 12) and Climate Action (Goal 13). As the population is growing, resources are becoming more limited. Therefore, it is increasingly important to educate farmers on responsible uses of land resources. Learning sustainable farming practices and risk mitigation, our clients begin understanding water conservation and how to produce higher yields. In addition, they better understand their production costs and how to run their business more effectively.
For Catarina, the profits and business trainings motivated her to create a parallel income by starting a store and buying a motorcycle to distribute her products. Now she and her family enjoy basic services like running water, electricity, and telephone access. “Thank you, Friendship Bridge, for your support. We had nothing, we suffered a lot, we didn’t even have basic services,” said Catarina. “Now my sons are growing healthy. I have no worries because I have enough to have a decent living without worrying about the future.”