- About 100 Maya Kaqchikel families live in Saquiyá. Its total population is approximately 525 people, more than half of whom are children and young adults.
- Saquiyá is a small village nestled in the mountainous highlands of Guatemala, located four miles from the municipal seat of Patzún and 20 miles from the departmental (state) capital of Chimaltenango.
- Life in Saquiyá revolves around the agricultural cycle. Most people are subsistence farmers who plant corn and beans on rented land; only a few families own their own small plots.
- To supplement their incomes, some community members work as day laborers on large, commercial farms, many of which produce export products. They are paid about $4.50 per day for their labor.
- Similar to most indigenous communities across Latin America, people in Saquiyá practice hybrid forms of religion that blend traditional indigenous beliefs and rituals with Christianity.
- Public transportation reaches the community only twice a week on “market days.” Any other time, community members are left to hope they can catch a ride to Patzún in the back of a pickup truck.
When Saquiyá community leaders first approached us about partnering on a water and sanitation system in 2012, 52% of the community’s children under five years of age suffered from chronic malnutrition.
Since then, the village has seen a dramatic transformation. With ALDEA’s support, Saquiyá families have reduced chronic malnutrition among children under five by almost half: down to 24 percent. People have access to clean water, all the households have pit latrines and gray water filters, and all the kitchens are free from smoke because vented stoves have been installed. Women have the knowledge to take better care of their babies and children. Exclusive breastfeeding is now practiced by 100 percent of mothers with babies under six months, and a proper diet is provided to all children under five. The risk of gastrointestinal diseases has been reduced by 40 percent, now that all Saquiyá families have access to chlorinated home water, latrines and gray water filters, and education on hygiene.
During our initial study, ABPD found that no women or youth were part of decision making spaces in the village, meaning their needs were not represented. Now, 14 percent of the women working with us are an active part of these local committees. Saquiyá youth have decided they want to start their own projects rather than sit on adult committees, and with the support of our staff and another organization, SERES, they have raised funds and are managing two different projects focused on environmental conservation in their community—even involving youth from surrounding villages.
Read 17-year-old Ruth Aracely Raquec Sitán’s story of becoming an agent of change in Saquiyá.
In addition to the support of ALDEA donors and the implementation of the approach we have honed over many years of experience, what makes Saquiyá successful is the involvement and participation of the community in the development process from the beginning and their ability to work together toward a common goal. The development process continues in this village, and since July 2014 it has been led by the local promoters—all women—trained by ABPD.
Integrated Approach to Development
Saquiya completed our full integrated approach in June 2015. Together we implemented the following program components:
- Community Mobilization and Empowerment
- Water, Sanitation & Hygiene
- Food Security (Sustainable Agriculture)
- Family Planning
- Disaster Risk Reduction
“My life has completely changed in one year. From dedicating the majority of my day to bringing water and firewood to the house, I now have time for me and my family. My children are healthier, we are eating better, and I am now a member of one of the community committees and my concerns and ideas are listened to. We have worked hard for this, but it has been worth it.”
-Doña Carmela Pérez
“We’re seeing a difference in the kids. We’re getting a big benefit in what we’re being taught. [Now that I don’t have to spend time carrying water] I work at the farm with my husband or go to the school and make snacks for the kids. I use the money for the house. It is a little bit more than what my husband is able to earn by himself. I’m thankful and happy that this program has touched my life. I want to tell everyone to be thankful. We are lucky. I know how life was before this project.”
-Floridalma Xinico Tzay