New research recommends targeted assistance and engagement with small farmers in rural Guatemala to improve livelihoods and reduce migration pressures.
Researchers from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee, United States, and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Texcoco, Mexico, describe why it is important for technical assistance to build upon indigenous farming knowledge and include women if programs are to succeed in tackling poverty and hunger in rural, Mesoamerican communities. Their findings, describing recent work in the Guatemalan Highlands, are recently published in Nature Sustainability.
CIMMYT maize germplasm bank staff preparing the order for the repatriation of Guatemalan seed varieties. Photo: CIMMYT
in Guatemala, which aims to enhance the sustainability of maize systems in the country. Denise Costich, head of the maize germplasm bank, received the award on behalf of CIMMYT during the event ‘Maize of Guatemala: Repatriation, Conservation and Sustainable use of Agro-biodiversity,’ held on September 7 2018, in Guatemala City.
Guatemalan landrace maize hung up to dry. Photo: Denise Costich
Guatemala forms part of the center of origin of maize, and is home to a large amount of the staple crop’s genetic diversity. Smallholder farmers are the guardians of much of this diversity in the form of landraces, native maize varieties passed down through generations that are prized for their flavor and use in traditional dishes. These landraces are gaining interest in the culinary community, and many chefs are willing to pay more for traditional maize varieties. A recent study from scientists working with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) investigated whether facilitating the emergence of niche markets for local maize varieties in the western highlands of Guatemala could contribute to poverty reduction.