We are change agents. Under the leadership of MANUEL LAYNEZ and Bright Star Philanthropy Partners we will change the situation of hunger for the Ixil Maya. We will increase crop production and develop new jobs. We will change the barriers against education for the families with no resources. We will do this together because we know that if you practice the same things always, the results will be the same. One has to practice different ways to get different results.
“Our team is thinking of new ideas and new solutions. We must achieve success for our Ixil people. We thank Bright Star Philanthropy Partners for its compassion, support and respect.” Manual Laynez, President, ASO-Ixil
Bright Star Philanthropy Partners (BSPP) began work in Guatemala in early 2011 by identifying, supporting and leadership mentoring, young indigenous Maya Ixil leaders from the region of Chajul.
The development of trust was essential groundwork in the early work. Born during civil war and growing up in fear and hunger, these potential leaders had an absolute passion for helping their people to become economically self-supporting but had neither means nor the knowledge of how to do that. BSPP guided these young Mayan Ixil leaders to identify 3 community priorities:
- food security, with the ability of families to provide for their own food, not dependent on outside aid donations
- economic diversity to provide jobs that paid a wage to provide for food and the education of the children.
- Cultural preservation of the Mayan Ixil language, history, cultural beliefs and practices.
In response to these locally identified community needs, Bright Star Philanthropy Partners provided technical assistance and grant support to the leadership team to form a 100% Mayan Ixil Non-profit Association registered with the Guatemalan government. There are 95 Associate farm families in 7 villages. Local leaders and committees develop and implement local policy, guidelines, rules and fees.
The Mayan Ixil Community
The high mountain community of Chajul could be identified as “beyond the end of the end of the road”. Chajul is both a town and a county in the department (state) of Quiche’. Most speak only the Mayan Ixil language and have not had the opportunity to learn to read or write. The Ixil region was the center of violence and genocide during the 36 year long civil war. Although the Peace Accords were in 1996, the community and its people are still suffering in the aftermath of violence, in extreme poverty, isolation, little formal infrastructure, and lack of an opportunity for education. With sixty percent of the population under age 19, less than 11.5 % graduate from middle school, 3% graduate from high school and less than .5% enter a university. (Reference: http://limitlesshorizonsixil.org/community_of_chajul/)
In Chajul, 93% live on less than $2.00 a day, and only 5.6 % have someone in the extended family who earns a salary in the formal economy. Up to 80% of the rural children can be counted among those that are malnourished, one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the western hemisphere. (Reference: http://limitlesshorizonsixil.org/community_of_chajul/)
Coffee ranks as one of the world’s most valuable and widely traded commodity corps. The Arabica coffee in the Chajul high northern mountains of Guatemala is a specialty coffee that is one of the most valuable in the world. Yet, thirty six years of civil war and the recent infestation of coffee tree leaves by the fungus disease Roya has left the small holder coffee farmers impoverished and desperate.
Making Stone Soup
How do you start economic diversity and development in a community so resource poor? With Stone Soup, of course. It starts with trusting who owns the pot and what they will do with the soup. The folk tale of Stone Soup is a story lived in Chajul. Farmer committees are democratically organized and the board always reaches consensus before it acts. Bright Star Philanthropy Partners provides appropriate technical assistance for collective impact through connections made, markets accessed and capacity built. Every project participant lives by the philosophy of each one teach one. The soup grows more delicious every day.
- Nurture local emerging indigenous leaders working for economic and community transformation.
- Establishing a trust relationship takes time and is a two way street.
- Communications in a second language can result in misunderstanding. It is important to have several resource people who can translate, as well as have an understanding and relationship with both cultures.
- Bright Star Philanthropy Partners Technical Assistance and mentoring resulted in the legally a registered Non-Profit Association of Farmers for the Development of the Maya Ixil.
Watch for additional blog topics in this series:
- Resource and partnership building for economic diversity and food security
- Working with a community and individuals deeply affected by violence and trauma
- The women of Chajul: developing entrepreneurs
- Identification of key levers of change
- Building organizational infrastructure
- Accessing coffee and textile markets through development of value supply chains and partners.