HRNW REPORT: Rosaura is a midwife, a profession that she started when she was 14 years old, in Guatemala’s high plain área o Santa María Tacaná, San Marcos. From a young age, she has dedicated her energy to protecting life in a region that is historically hard-hit by a harsh climate and domestic armed conflict and in which more than 90 percent of the population lives in conditions of poverty.

“I didn´t go to school,” Rosaura explains. “Nonetheless, nowadays it gives me enormous satisfaction that my home is a CADER-Centre for Learning for Rural Development, where knowledge is shared with a view to improving agriculture, foodstuffs, health, the environment and family income. Working together with my husband, we have joined forces with 40 families living nearby, with all of us finding a way to help each other.”

The story began when the couple enrolled as volunteers in the Joint Programme for the Reduction of Vulnerabilities. Financed by Sweden. This joint programme of UNDP, the Food and Agriculture organizaion (FAO), Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, and local institutions seeks to strengthen rural development in the Coatán y Alto Suchiate basins in San Marcos. The objective is to reduce the vulnerabilities faced by 56 communities relating to health and the community environment, by maximizing the productive opportunities available to the population and improving risk management and disaster response.

“In our home, the land is on an inclined surface, and so every time it rained or there was a tremor, we lived with the consequences of the damage. Nor did we have enough water for all-year-round cultivation,” Rosaura emphasizes.

The programme is also designed to give a boost to the rural economy, to help establish mechanisms that safeguard the rights of women, especially sexual and reproductive rights, and to reaffirm the rights of indigenous peoples, especially the Mam community.

Thanks to the programme, Rosaura has made improvements to her home. “The programme is not designed to give us oil or flour or anything else for free. It has been established to provide us with know-how. Once equipped with such expertise, we have managed to make significant changes in our lives. Moreover, nine women established a fund with which we created a greenhouse for cultivating flowers,” Rosaura goes on to say.

Programme coordinator Christina Elich says that the success is attributable to better cooperation between institutions, regional development, and more inclusive participation of diverse organizations that represent men, women and indigenous groups such as the Mam people.

With guidance from UNDP and FAO, more than 8,200 people in 50 communities formed six “Basin Committees” to gain a clearer understanding of the comprehensive water cycle, land use management, and the reduction of risks.

More than 19,000 inhabitants improved their access to drinking water, and 25 communities upgraded the infrastructure and operation of water systems. Additionally, 602 families made improvements to their homes (floors, division of rooms, and ceilings, among others) and 237 families were moved to safe homes.

The programme was successful in ensuring that no deaths of mothers were reported during childbirth, thanks to efforts to strengthen primary care in the home through the use of midwives, to enhance access to health care centres, and to identify the closest health care centres to ensure expeditious service.

In addition, the UNDP trained 2,600 families in the opening of quality markets and quality controls for organic shampoo, honey, trout, flowers and vegetables. As a result, 486 families have increased their incomes through the sale of various products.

“With the assistance of the Joint Programme, we no longer lack water during the summer months, we have enough for cultivation. Now we want to build a greenhouse for roses because so far we have made a good income from selling these flowers. And what we learn, we then share with our neighbours,” Rosaura points out.

The programme will also be implemented in other vulnerable areas in the Ixil and Quiché regions and in the high basin of the Cuilco river, in San Marcos.



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