32 Volcanes: Combatting malnutrition amongst vulnerable families in Guatemala

Guatemala has the highest rate of chronic malnutrition in all of Latin America, and one of the highest in the world, standing at 49%. In some rural zones, this reaches 80%. Concerned by this situation, at the start of 2019, a group of people founded the organisation 32 Volcanes, which is a Guatemalan non-profit organisation that, through the reclamation of culture, strives for community sovereignty and autonomy to achieve more just lives at both a social and environmental level, to regenerate and dignify lives. It is also a platform for the creation of community support networks, for the joint creation of processes that highlight human dignity, gender equality, and that grant access to new knowledge and promote happiness and a sense of spiritual harmony with our environment. 

The core programmes and ideas of 32 Volcanes have been consolidated thanks to the continued support of US organisations such as the All Together Foundation and Timmy Global Health, who, from the very beginning, have placed their hope, faith, and team spirit into the association. With the freedom to grow, improve, organise, and develop new foundations that represent the capacities built over 3 decades of work by the founders, the discourse, ideological base, and political activities of 32 Volcanoes have matured with time. 

We have seen the programmes not only continue but improve and shift closer and closer towards ancestral knowledge, memory, and the biosphere. Just as a seed takes root in the earth and consolidates itself as a new life, interweaving its roots with the roots of other beings, flowers, and fades away to complete its regeneration cycle, 32 Volcanoes has expanded its approach to regenerative development. The philosophy is based on rhizomatic models, similar to natural processes, as 32 Volcanoes believes in the community ability to build new social and knowledge paradigms that are in harmony with the earth. 

32 Volcanes works under the following concepts: 

  • Food sovereignty: through the defence of native and creole seeds, their sowing, production, and cultivation can eradicate maternal and child malnutrition, obesity, and chronic diseases, thereby achieving collective wellbeing.
  • Natural regeneration: through regenerative agriculture, reforestation, environmental investigation and education, to restore natural and human ecosystems, with a focus on hydrographic basins.
  • Health: Social clinics, psychosocial support, physical activity, medication, food, and unrestricted access to all the programmes. 
  • Education: the Scholarship-holder and family support centre in Valle Palajunoj; informal education programme (workshops, conferences, courses). 
  • Economy: through the doughnut economic model and Seeds, The Regenerative Money 
  • Art-Culture-Thought-Memory: an anthropological, archaeological approach, the operations of the publishing house, Catafixia, as well as consultancies in the following locations: the Santiaguito bookstore, and the soon-to-open ‘Mario Payeras’ Library 

At present, the 32 Volcanes association has the following programmes ongoing: 

  • Scholarship Programme: 111 students have so far benefitted across the Palajunoj Valley, San Juan Olintepeque and San Juan Ostuncalco in Quetzaltenango; and the village of Xeabaj II and Pujujil in the department of Sololá. 
  • Family support centre: 25 years of support, education, childcare and guidance for the families of the Palanunoj Valley 
  • Programme against malnutrition: aimed at children under 5, who benefit from supplements and formulas to combat maternal and child malnutrition through medical conferences and anthropometry 
  • Urban orchards and gardens for regeneration: in tandem with the programme against malnutrition, we aim to achieve food sovereignty. To do this, it is crucial to promote a new agricultural model that uses an agroecological approach and methodologies based on the ancestral knowledge of the region, which will promote the diversification and rescue of native and creole seeds 

Now, in partnership with EntreMundos, we seek to create 3 new demonstration gardens: one located in the urban area of the Municipality of Quetzaltenango, and two more in Palajunoj Valley. These gardens will not only be a source of agricultural products, but they will also be a meeting place for training, capacity-building, and the exchange of knowledge, to promote a more harmonious connection between human beings, their food, and their surrounding environment and develop more dignified conditions for producer families.