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“The momentum”: How women in Guatemala are taking care of their families’ health, the land, and each other

By Barbara Voorhies, a long-time Thousand Currents supporter (and avid potter)

In March 2018, Barbara Voorhies traveled to Guatemala and visited with two of our partners there, Asociación de Mujeres Ixpiyakok / Ixpiyakok Women’s Association (ADEMI) and Instituto para la Superación de la Miseria Urbana de Guatemala / Institute for Overcoming Urban Poverty in Guatemala (ISMUGUA). She went to learn about their work in community organizing, health, and agriculture. 

Below she shares a brief photo essay of her visit to ADEMI, including captions she has written of what she observed. Barbara wrote to us following her trip that she was struck by, “how the momentum of improving a community spreads into other areas.”



This first photo shows women from Chapati presenting how they promote local economic development.

The box contains their savings, which they keep track of each week, add to, and/or make mini-loans for small scale entrepreneurial projects. Each week a different woman is in charge of the box.


Next a different group showed [me] how the women tracked the health of their children (up to 5 years old) by weighing them and comparing the weight to a chart of what a normal range would be. If underweight, they add more healthy foods to the diet, and if severely underweight, they have a concentrated packaged supplement they can add.


Then the women shared their methods of reaching out to other women by presenting a skit where a chosen ADEMI woman visited another woman whose child was “sickly.” She showed how she had helped her child by increasing fruits and vegetables to the diet and stopped allowing the child to eat “junk food.” At the end, she invited the new woman to attend an ADEMI meeting.



Just before lunch was market time where produce, seeds, herbs, local dishes, and arts/crafts from various women were offered for sale. I bought and enjoyed a tamale.

The women use specific herbs to treat various ailments, for example herbs for helping with sleep.




This photo shows women in the first stages of preparing pesticides from natural sources. 

After cutting/dicing onions and garlic, a third ingredient is chilis, which are being crushed/grinded in this photo.





The second stage is cooking the onion, garlic, and chili in a pan of water for a couple to many hours, depending on the intended use. Then the brew is strained and the enriched water is poured into containers and stored for hours, days or even weeks while it ferments (depending on its intended usage).



Gardening/farming methods were shared in some depth…. directly in the ground as well as in planters (depending on whether the women had access to land or not). This included soil preparation, the adding of organic nutrients, the scattering of seed, mulching with pine needles, and watering.

These photos show gardening in containers as well as seed collections. The women use various types of containers including recycled plastic water bottles with cutouts, which they hang from trees to protect them from roaming animals.