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Villa Hortencia I

“Town of Hydrangeas”

Location: Cotzal, Quiché, Guatemala

Size: 688 acres

Population: 120 families

established: 2008

Ended Agros Support: 2014

For years the families of Villa Hortencia I traveled by foot from the Ixil highlands to the coast to work in sugar cane plantations. After working there for several months, they returned to the Ixil with a few dollars in their pockets and permission to borrow land from the plantation owners to grow corn and help meet their families’ basic needs. The next year the cycle would begin again. There were no schools for the children and the families often became ill because of the change of climate between the highlands and the coast, lack of shelter, and other adverse conditions.

The early 1960’s saw the beginning of a devastating civil war in Guatemala that ended with the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996. The war had particularly harsh consequences in the rural areas by hampering development, keeping rural areas marginalized, and causing more than 200,000 casualties. Large numbers of people were displaced. The families of Villa Hortencia I were forced to escape their homes in the Ixil to save their lives.

Just a little more than ten years after the Peace Accords were signed, the families obtained rights to the 688 acres of land in Villa Hortencia I through the government run Land Fund, Fontierras. The families’ principal economic activity continues to be subsistence agriculture with the primary crops being corn and beans. However, due to the poor quality of the rocky land, lack of water and lack of training in knowing how to best utilize their land, the majority of the community still migrates to plantations on the south coast of Guatemala to pick coffee and cut sugar cane three times a year.

In 2006, we began working with the families in Villa Hortencia I, facilitating a process of community organization and leadership development. In June 2008, with the support of long-term funding, we began implementing the components of the model. 120 families had access to training and support to maximize the productivity of their land, as well as building on their process of community organization and human development.