I am sitting on a bus, practically on a woman's lap beside me. Her son next to her is carrying a turkey on his lap. I look out the window and stare at the valley below. We are 8,000 ft above sea level and all of the sudden we pass through clouds and all I can see is white. Our driver lays on the horn to warn anyone who might be barreling towards us in the opposite direction. He is 16 years old and has decorated his space with pictures of Jesus and sexy white girls. This is Guatemala. It is all beauty and terror together.
I was there with a group called, Semilla Nueva, or New Seed. It's a grassroots sustainable agriculture organization which helps impoverished farmers in rural Guatemala. The land that these famers are using is producing less and less every year, and with the increasing prices of fertilizer, seeds, and tilling, farming in Guatemala creates a cycle of poverty. Semilla Nueva has built a relationship with these farmers and their family over years and years, and works with them to develop new, simple technologies. These local, sustainable technologies help these farmers and their families to get a greater yield, which can be used to feed their family and the profits can even be used to give their children an education.
I really got to know the people I worked with. They had an amazing story. Many of the farmers were refugees or landless after the war and genocide in the 1980s. After the war, many of these farmers participated in the peaceful land march to the capital in 1986 to demand land from the government. Now, the soil in these lands are worsening and it is getting more and more expensive to farm, to a point where the campesinos lose money farming.
Semilla Nueva focuses on community leadership and education to improve the lives of the Guatemalan people. They work closely with the farmers and these new sustainable technologies can be handed down to the new generation on this land. I wanted to take direct portraits of these farmers to give the organization a real face, and show the intimate relationships within Semilla Nueva.
For more info visit semillanueva.org