USAID's Frontlines magazine recently showcased Mercy Corps Guatemala’s Innovative Market Alliance for Rural Entrepreneurs (IMARE) program through the personal story of Delma Gomez, one of the first women to start working with the program. The 32-year-old Gomez says that, before being involved in the program, she spent all of her time at home doing housework and taking care of her children because there were no places in the community where women could work.
"The project has been a huge benefit because before we didn’t have any opportunity to work and earn money" Gomez said. "Now with what I earn at the packing center, I have been able to improve what my children eat.”
Gomez estimates most of her earnings, around 70 percent, go towards purchasing food for the family. She also said that her children are sick much less often now and seem to be growing faster as well.
The Alliance between Mercy Corps, USAID and Wal-Mart has connected communities of poor farmers with national and global supermarket supply chains. In recent testimony in front of congressional appropriators, USAID administrator Rajiv Shah cited the Partnership as a model of how introducing large communities of poor farmers into global value-chain networks has residual effects on societies:
“[When I was last in Guatemala], I visited a village where they told me that three years ago there were 20 kids in school. And, now today, because of that partnership with USAID and Wal-Mart, they had a demand for 500 kids to go to school,” Shah explained. “And that’s because when women farmers earn income, the very first thing they do is invest that income in the health and education of their children. And it just demonstrates how we can move communities out of poverty into a place of stability in a way that’s far more efficient than dealing with consequences.”