Women in indigenous communities in Sololá, Guatemala and, for that matter, throughout the Mesoamerica region as whole rely on each other for everything. They work collectively to plant their crops and perform other tasks. They depend on each other to go to the market and to raise their kids. And they often share food and other resources. This is why it easy to understand how Dina Julaju Quiche was able to overcome a tragic moment in her life, after recently losing her husband to illness.
Dina is a young, petite woman. Her calm demeanor and smile does not give any impression of her struggles as a single mother trying to raise four kids on a tiny piece of land, less than 150 square feet. But she has found solace in her neighbors and beautiful children. Dina’s children are: Ingrid, a young baby whose eyes resembles her father; Marco, Dina’s little boy who seems to be friends with everybody in town; and twins Miguel and Juan, who are also responsible for the family’s well-kept vegetable garden.
The Quiche family may live on a very small parcel of land, but they have plenty of work to do. Besides the garden, they raised pigs and chicken. Dina also maintains another garden with flowers and medicinal plants in case somebody gets sick. Despite their hard work, what Dina harvests from this piece of land is not enough to feed her family for the whole year, so she leases an extra parcel to grow crops like corn and beans, as well as forage for the animals.
She told us that her husband insisted that she participate in the Vegetable Garden Project. The project is led by the National Coordination of Peasants and Indigenous People (CONIC) – and supported by Grassroots International – in 10 communities of Sololá department of Guatemala. Because of her husband’s urging Dina participates in CONIC’s activities along with other community’s women.
“He left a good example for me and my children. The garden helps us to get by,” Dina reflects.
Seeing the results from CONIC’s community gardens, Dina – with her entrepreneur skills – decided to buy more chicken to produce more manure to improve the exhausted soils around her house. And it seems it is working for her. “I have been able to harvest a good amount of food,” she told me.
When asked what her message would be for other women in Guatemala and elsewhere, Dina said: “I say this to all women: Grow a garden for yourself and your children, because it brings important benefits.”