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Maize diversity, market access, and poverty reduction in the Western Highlands of Guatemala

Author: Hellin, J.
Author: Cox, R.
Author: Lopez-Ridaura, S.
Year: 2017
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10883/18707
Descriptors: Maize
Descriptors: Market access
Descriptors: Rural poverty
Abstract: The western highlands of Guatemala lie within the area where maize was first domesticated, and maize remains central to farmers' livelihood security. Over 50% of the population in the region are in poverty, and over 48% suffer from chronic malnutrition. Development efforts have focused on improved land management, crop diversification, and improved access to markets, especially for high-value vegetable crops such as snow peas. As a result of successful initiatives worldwide, more attention is being directed at the extent to which farmers can benefit from market opportunities for indigenous crops by receiving a price premium for providing the environmental service of conserving agricultural biodiversity. Such an approach bridges the gap between poverty alleviation and in situ conservation. We explored this potential development pathway through both qualitative and quantitative research. Focus groups were conducted in 5 communities in the maize-growing highlands of Guatemala, followed by a survey of 989 farm households in 59 locations. Our results show that most farmers in the western highlands of Guatemala are severely maize deficient; on average, farm households produce enough maize for only 6.9 months of consumption a year and are forced to purchase maize to meet basic consumption needs. The results are in sharp contrast to research conducted in highland communities in neighboring Mexico, where many farmers are able to sell their maize in relatively lucrative specialty maize markets. In the context of renewed interest in reducing poverty in Central America, our research suggests that rather than focus on market development for local maize varieties, development efforts should target other types of interventions.
Abstract: The western highlands of Guatemala lie within the area where maize was first domesticated, and maize remains central to farmers' livelihood security. Over 50% of the population in the region are in poverty, and over 48% suffer from chronic malnutrition. Development efforts have focused on improved land management, crop diversification, and improved access to markets, especially for high-value vegetable crops such as snow peas. As a result of successful initiatives worldwide, more attention is being directed at the extent to which farmers can benefit from market opportunities for indigenous crops by receiving a price premium for providing the environmental service of conserving agricultural biodiversity. Such an approach bridges the gap between poverty alleviation and in situ conservation. We explored this potential development pathway through both qualitative and quantitative research. Focus groups were conducted in 5 communities in the maize-growing highlands of Guatemala, followed by a survey of 989 farm households in 59 locations. Our results show that most farmers in the western highlands of Guatemala are severely maize deficient; on average, farm households produce enough maize for only 6.9 months of consumption a year and are forced to purchase maize to meet basic consumption needs. The results are in sharp contrast to research conducted in highland communities in neighboring Mexico, where many farmers are able to sell their maize in relatively lucrative specialty maize markets. In the context of renewed interest in reducing poverty in Central America, our research suggests that rather than focus on market development for local maize varieties, development efforts should target other types of interventions.
Language: English
Publisher: International Mountain Society
Copyright: CIMMYT manages Intellectual Assets as International Public Goods. The user is free to download, print, store and share this work. In case you want to translate or create any other derivative work and share or distribute such translation/derivative work, please contact CIMMYT-Knowledge-Center@cgiar.org indicating the work you want to use and the kind of use you intend; CIMMYT will contact you with the suitable license for that purpose.
Type: Article
Country: Guatemala
Place: Bern, Switzerland
Pages: 188-197
Journal issue: 2
Journal: Mountain Research and Development
Journal volume: 37
DOI: 10.1659/MRD-JOURNAL-D-16-00065.1
Audicence: Researchers
Country of Focus: GUATEMALA


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  • Socioeconomics
    Including topics such as farming systems, markets, impact & targeting, innovations, and GIS

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