YABAL: Supporting the walk of communities in Guatemala

It’s a cold and stormy night in October; imagine yourself curled up in your bed, the ceiling light flickering slightly and you’re so content to be inside under your soft and warm blanket after a whole day of work in the fields. You’re just about to harvest the crops, this is the time of the year when you will be rewarded for your unyielding work, with a year’s supply of food and income that will support you and your family the coming year until it’s time to harvest again. 

Suddenly, you hear people screaming outside and someone is fiercely knocking on your door. In the blink of an eye you understand that a ferocious mudslide is thrashing towards your house and you have mere minutes to gather your family and as much as you can possibly carry on your back and prepare to leave the only place you have ever known as home and head out in the torrential rain, without knowing where you’re going, just knowing that you will never be able to return. 

In October 2005, Hurricane Stan swept over Guatemala, causing flooding and mudslides, destroying crops and obliterating entire communities in the pacific lowlands, leaving over 1500 people dead and hundreds missing. Members of indigenous communities in the region managed to escape the disaster and headed 2,000 meters up the mountains to safer grounds, ending up in an area called “Little Alaska”, one of the highest and coldest areas of Guatemala, in the region of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan. 

Foto: Yabal Guatemala

Yabal was born at this time, with a desire to offer relief to the people that were displaced by Hurricane Stan. First, by providing food and water, medicines, and temporary housing and blankets. Later, by gathering funds to build permanent homes, arrange micro-credits, start youth programs and job-skills workshops. Even later, by collaborating with the women in the community to form the Yabal Fair Trade women’s weaving project. This is how we got to know the inspiring, entrepreneurial and warm hearted people from the communities of Pacutama and Chiucutama; subsistence farmers from the coastal region suddenly faced with a new cold climate, arid soil and insufficient water supplies, forced to find new ways to sustain themselves economically. 

This area of the Western Highlands is also severely affected by deforestation. Forests provide services, timber and non-timber products such as resin, bark, mushrooms, berries, medicinal plants amongst other things and therefore offer many different opportunities of socio-economic growth, which is especially important in rural areas. For this reason, Yabal initiated a reforestation project to support the community of Chiucutama and their goal to restore their nearby forests. The project started in 2015 and since then over 5000 trees have been planted. The next step is to provide workshops on forest management and conservation; how to plant new trees; how to care for them and how to sustain the forest and prevent new deforestation.

With the help from the grant bestowed by Entremundos this year, we can proceed with our reforestation project, further educate the community to support them in their efforts to rebuild their forests and plant more trees. Thank you Entremundos!

You can visit and support the Yabal store at 7 Calle 15-79 zona 1 in Quetzaltenango.