Teaching and Mentoring the Seeds Program Participants

“We like Seeds for a Future very much because it does
not just give things, but it teaches us.”

Rural Guatemala is filled with hard-working people who want healthy and satisfying futures for their families and communities.

For over 13 years, the non-profit Seeds for a Future has developed its scientifically proven program for training and empowering rural families to build better lives.

Over 2,100 families have already graduated from the program with a new spirit of self-reliance, with more enrolling every day.

The Seeds for a Future program continues to grow, with a dedicated local staff coaching and mentoring the skills needed for having more food and better nutrition, increasing family incomes, and living healthier lives.

The Seeds for a Future Program integrates these core elements:

  • Backyard Farms 

  • The “What and Why” of nutrition

  • Kitchen hygiene and family health

  • Re-organizing / re-purposing indoor and outdoor spaces 

  • Better cash-crop farming methods

  • Engagement and self-reliance

The Program works well, and we’re excited to share some background about its core elements:

Backyard Farms Raising Plants and Animals

Backyard Farms produce nutrition-packed food and animals at home.

Seeds for a Future teaches how to transform yards and patios into thriving gardens and animal enclosures.

Training is provided by the Seeds team during weekly in-home visits. We also provide initial seedlings and starter animals. Families learn to grow their own seedlings and manage poultry and animals to create their own renewable supply.

Families often produce more than they need and can share or sell the extra.

Teaching Program Participants About Health and Nutrition

The “What and Why” of nutrition provides vital health information and practices.

When our team talks about nutrition and why it’s essential, families are eager to learn. 

 We teach the benefits of various nutrients and what foods supply these nutrients. 

Our cooking demonstrations and recipe books feature favorite local recipes, easily enhanced with the family’s plant and animal production for tasty, nutrition-packed meals.

A strong focus of the Program is proper nutrition for pregnant and nursing mothers and their infants. During the critical First 1000 Days – from conception to age 2 -- good nutrition is vital for escaping the life-long impacts of chronic malnutrition.

Teaching the Importance of Kitchen Hygiene and Family Health

Kitchen hygiene and family health knowledge are integral to a better life.

Rural areas have many health challenges.

A home may have piped-in water, but it probably has to be boiled for drinking or cooking.

The nearest health clinic may be quite distant in practical terms, and its services may be limited.  Home sanitary facilities are often very simple and often located too close to food handling areas.

We teach practical hygiene techniques families can use to reduce the possibility of disease transmission during food handling or and throughout the home.  Simple first aid training helps people deal with emergencies and better understand when to go to a clinic or doctor for help.

Methods for Creating New Gardens and Raising Animals

Re-organizing / re-purposing indoor and outdoor spaces and outdoor spaces for productivity and well-being.

It's easy to overlook both problems and resources when we’re struggling to provide the basics for ourselves and our families.

Many families have neglected space around their homes. In an area with limited or no trash services, over time these neglected spaces can fill with castoff household items.

We help families take a fresh look at these spaces and see them as resources for gardens, plant containers, chicken coops, rabbit pens, maybe even a tilapia pond.

Indoors, simple re-organizing makes a big difference in how the family gets along and feels comfortable in its space.  We teach re-cycling, re-purposing, and composting. This reduces the amount of waste generated – a big benefit to the environment, especially in areas that don’t have authorized trash disposal services.

Increasing Cash Crops Like Cacao and Fruit Trees

Better cash-crop farming methods mean increased productivity and more income.

Many rural households have a parcel of land separate from their home.

The men of the family manage these small-holder farms primarily to produce income.  

Widely throughout Guatemala, the #1 cash crop is coffee. But with just one harvest annually and the impact of international market fluctuations, coffee-growing families often suffer.  

To increase and stabilize household income, Seeds for a Future teaches farmers:

  • Crop diversification by adding cacao, fruit and lumber trees, and other locally popular food plants

  • Improved farming methods, including soil health, pruning techniques, and organic fertilization and pest control

  • Developing micro-businesses based on locally popular agricultural products

Self Reliance Creates Generational Change

Engagement and self-reliance for a healthier and more prosperous future.

The underlying goal of Seeds for a Future’s program is for families to build better lives for themselves.  

Trimmed of all the strategies and details, our most fundamental action is to foster positive behavioral change.

Behavioral change requires that participants are not simply exposed to new
skills and information and then left on their own.

Participants are closely supported to help them recognize and solve problems, become comfortable and confident in their new skills, and embed them into their daily thinking and routine. 

As each family gains confidence with their crops, animals, and life skills, they share their knowledge with extended family and neighbors. It’s a chain-reaction effect, spreading throughout the entire community.

The Program includes many factors for achieving acceptance and sustainability:

  • Sensitivity to the cultural context

  • Relevance to needs and interests

  • Ethnic, political, and religious neutrality

  • Use of appropriate learning techniques such as learn-by-doing and guided observation

  • Design for affordability and the reinforcing effect of  early success

Experience has shown these factors are also critical for the program’s success:

  • Field staff are local to the area and trained to model mutual respect

  • Encouraging innovation and learning from failure as well as success

  • Self-selection by families indicates a willingness to learn and do their part

  • Encouraging sharing of both knowledge and resources

The Program’s integration and reach into the communities it serves have not been a matter of luck! 

The hard work and persistence of the local staff have evolved a unique program that is continuing to grow and transform.

To learn more about the Program, download the Program in Detail PDF

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