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The mission of Semilla Nueva is to develop locally-led farmer education programs that increase the income, rebuild the soils, and improve the food security of Guatemala’s rural poor. This ECHOcommunity network member organization is using farmer-to-farmer training to empower farmers with the knowledge and tools they need to experiment with new, sustainable, techniques and to share their results with others.

Guatemalan small-scale farmers are in need of improved access to nutritious crops. Semilla Nueva is helping to provide seed and support for three specific crops: Chaya, Pigeonpea, and Quality Protein Maize.

Chaya SpaghettiChaya, or tree spinach, is perennial source of protein native to the region. Chaya has been a traditional source of protein for the Mayan people, and the plants can be used as natural fencing. Through nutrition programs and cooking classes Semilla Nueva is working with Guatemalans to increase the growth and consumption of this nutritious vegetable.

Maize is a major food source for Guatemalans, however reliance on low-protein varieties for a large part of their dietary intake has contributed in no small way to malnutrition and stunting in some populations. Semilla Nueva is researching and promoting a variety of Quality Protein Maize (QPM) that has been bred to be a complete protein source. With 90% of the protein of milk, QPM is a non-gmo corn variety that can be used to increase the diversity of Maize available and improve the nutritional value of traditional meals.

Along with new varieties of Maize, Semilla Nueva is promoting the agricultural practice of intercropping, specifically focusing on growing Maize and Pigeonpea in the same field. Another traditional crop, Pigeonpea is a highly nutritious bean that grows well between rows of Maize as a green manure cover crop, improving the soil through fixing atmospheric nitrogen.