Donate ▸

Land ownership yields stronger, healthier communities

Guatemala, March 15, 2012

Share this story:
  • tumblr
  • pinterest
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Elvia Usmelda Bush Tzic and her daughter Kimberly live in Santa Isabel, a community of 25 families founded in 2004. Because official records are scarce, they fought the local landowner for a year to establish their rights to the area before Mercy Corps and others helped mediate an agreement to buy half the acreage. Today, the families work on the community plot as well as their own individual parcels of land. Photo: Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Only 3% of the land in Alta Verapaz is legally registered, leading to multiple conflicts between communities and large landowners. The history is complex, but Mercy Corps’ land conflict mediation programme has helped almost 15,000 families secure land through negotiations at mediation centers like this one. Learn more about land conflict's impact on economies around the world on our sister blog, Global Envision. Photo: Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps  </span>
    With land ownership comes the freedom to cultivate better harvests. Dionicio Paz Pacu and Alfonso Cual stand in the yucca plantation that their community of Corozal established. Photo: Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Yucca is a new crop in Corozal, part of a Mercy Corps trial to help communities diversify their crops after a food crisis in 2009. Easy to maintain, yucca branches are simply cut into short lengths and buried a few inches under the ground. Photo: Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Less than a year old, yucca is already proving to be something of a miracle crop in Corozal and other areas of Alta Verapaz. It grows quickly without fertilizers and pesticides, and cuttings can be replanted over many years. Abundant harvests are sold at market and eaten by the farming families. Photo: Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Farmers are excited about the success of their new crops, like these sweet potatoes, as well as pineapple, bananas, herbs and cocoa. Photo: Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps  </span>
    With more food to choose from, women like Lubina Makuem (standing) are learning new cooking techniques and healthy eating habits from Mercy Corps staff and offering lessons to other families. Photo: Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Young girls and women are also responsible for bringing water to their communities. Without even rudimentary distribution systems, they often spend hours filling jugs at the river. Photo: Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Now that the community has built wash basins with Mercy Corps support, women can spend less time worrying about how to prepare clean food and wash their dishes and clothes. Photo: Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Children, especially susceptible to malnutrition and poor sanitation, are also benefitting from their communities’ new latrines, better waste receptacles, and an emergency fund to access healthcare. Photo: Jamie Grant for Mercy Corps

Far from major cities, the residents of Alta Verapaz in Guatemala’s rural northern highlands are dependent on the land to sustain their families and livelihoods. But after years of civil war, their resources have been diminished.

Mercy Corps works with various communities here as they define a new way of life, helping them gain ownership to their land, cultivate new crops, and learn about healthy habits.