Fighting malnutrition in Guatemala
Semilla Nueva produces and sells biofortified corn seeds in Guatemala with the aim of changing over 1 million diets with biofortified maize by 2022. From 2016 to 2018 we supported Semilla Nueva to overcome the biggest bottlenecks in developing and expanding the use of biofortified crops in Guatemala and strengthen the overall production chain “from seeds to table”. Combining direct and indirect sales, in 2018 Semilla Nueva reached over 120,000 people.
In Guatemala, corn tortillas are the ever-present staple of every meal, but they are very poor in nutrients. The lack of dietary diversity is responsible for chronic malnutrition in around half of Guatemalan children under five.
Semilla Nueva produces and sells biofortified corn seeds – non GMO, but conventionally bred to contain higher levels of quality protein and nearly 40% more zinc with the aim of changing over 1 million diets with biofortified maize by 2022. Biofortified crops represent an effective and culturally appropriate solution to malnutrition in Guatemala since they require no change in behaviours: people know how to grow them and how to prepare them. Semilla Nueva’s new seeds also produce higher yields and have shown promising drought tolerance.
We supported Semilla Nueva to overcome the biggest bottlenecks in developing and expanding the use of biofortified crops in Guatemala and strengthen the overall production chain “from seeds to table”.
- Biofortified seeds production
From 2016 to 2018 Semilla Nueva focused heavily on seed research, testing and production to ensure maximum quality standards and inventory control and to allow for licensing and government certification.
These efforts led, in 2018, to the identification and production of commercially competitive biofortified corn seeds, which translated, in the case of Fortaleza F3 seeds, up to a 13% increase in yield and 25% reduction in cost per bag.
Market research found that Semilla Nueva seeds have become the second most recommended seeds planted by farmers in 2018 and farmers are encouraged by the seeds’ drought tolerance
- Biofortified seed promotion, distribution, sales and consumption
Effective social marketing and promotion campaigns ensured that Semilla Nueva seeds were widely available in the most important maize producing regions and efficiently promoted to farmers and distributors. To consistently increase sales to distributors and farmers, an incentive policy was successfully set up. As a result, 1,271 seed bags were sold in 2018 (against 144 in 2017), which translates into about 70,800 people eating more nutrient-rich corn for a year.
- Guatemala’s seed sector
To gradually change Guatemala’s seed sector and scale the adoption of biofortified crops in the country Semilla Nueva collaborated with farmers associations ATESCATEL, APALH and ASOPRAE, offering technical assistance to plant, harvest, and sell biofortified corn, and with the World Food Programme (WFP). WFP directly purchased 1.9 MT of biofortified bean seeds and 2.2 MT of biofortified maize seeds in 2017 for its social programmes. At the beginning of 2018, however, WFP’s assistance approach towards the most vulnerable families replaced direct in-kind food assistance with the distribution of vouchers that can either be exchanged for food, used in selected shops or used freely to cover basic needs.
In 2018, the sales of these collaborating farmer cooperatives reached over 11,200 farmers, their families, and nearly 40,500 Guatemalans that bought biofortified maize from markets.
Combining direct and indirect sales, in 2018 Semilla Nueva reached over 120,000 people.