Guatemala is a country rich in culture, from village fairs to traditional clothing. It is a country full of natural wonders such as Lake Atitlan and volcanoes such as St. Pedro and the active Fuego which is constantly emitting black smoke from its peak. Most of the country is mountainous terrain with steep slopes. These very slopes are where we have found some of the country’s agriculture.
Agriculture is a major part of Guatemala’s economy and livelihood of many Guatemalans. We visited the town of Zaculeu with a population around 1,500 people and home to one of many cooperatives in the country. The cooperative contains 150 members made up of the local farmers. We worked with Alexa, a Peace Corps Volunteer assigned to assist local farmers with soil conservation and more efficient ways of farming. We had the privilege to work with Alexa and the cooperative on their farm plots. We measured contour lines with A-frames (see picture) that we constructed prior to going into the fields. The farmers constructed live barriers where we had placed the contour lines to help stop soil erosion.
I was shocked by the sheer mountainous
slopes on which these farmers worked. I am from Weslaco, a town in south Texas where we have a family farm: I am used to almost perfectly level fields. So, to see farmers surviving, thriving, and making a living on mountains slopes, is quite amazing in my eyes. They do all work by hand, whether plowing, planting, spraying, or harvesting. There are no tractors or machines because of the terrain. Farmers not only walk, but carry all their equipment to the fields.
Guatemala agriculture is like none other. The unique landscape makes agriculture much more difficult than it already is. Through my observations, I would easily conclude Guatemalans have taken agriculture to an extreme occupation!