By the side of the main road that leads into the municipality of Tamahú sits the rural community of Jolomche.
Situated in the southwest of the department of Alta Verapaz, this part of Guatemala has a disproportionate population of people living in extreme poverty facing significant barriers to developing sustainable livelihoods. The indigenous Mayan Poqomchí and Q'eqchi people, who inhabit the majority of Alta Verapaz, earn erratic, insufficient incomes from handicrafts, livestock, and agricultural wage labor. They have little to no education and low rates of literacy. They face ethnic discrimination, language barriers, unequal distribution of land resources, lack of reliable infrastructure, and formidable distances to viable markets.
These issues are compounded by chronic food insecurity, malnutrition, and distressed migration. On average, they face a four-month lean season, during which hunger is a part of daily life and two basic diet staples, corn and beans, are scarce. In 38% of Guatemalan municipalities, more than half of children under five-years-old are stunted due to entrenched poverty and food insecurity. In Tamahú, 70% of children under five are stunted due to malnutrition, and 84% of the rural population lives in poverty. Guatemala is an extreme outlier for child malnutrition among middle-income countries and in the Americas, with malnutrition rates comparable to those in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Burundi.
Generally, rural communities like Jolomche receive limited support from other NGOs or government agencies. Trickle Up is the only international NGO currently working in Tamahú. In recent years, the Guatemalan government has begun to prioritize these hard-to-reach, impoverished communities. Trickle Up joined forces with the municipality of Tamahú to help the local government gain the tools and expertise to effectively reach often overlooked populations, particularly people living in extreme poverty, people with disabilities, and indigenous families.
The majority of Tamahú's residents live in difficult to reach communities in the mountains above the town itself. Lacking roads, these communities can only be accessed by steep pathways and it can often take as many as four hours on foot in this mountainous terrain to reach communities like Jolomche.
Jolomche is home to approximately 400 families and has a primary school. Despite being located on the main route to the Polochic valley and the center of the municipality, the community faces high rates of malnutrition and extreme poverty, with many families who are even excluded from social programs. Trickle Up’s partner staff selected 24 participants from extremely poor households in Jolomche, including five households containing people with disabilities, to participate in our economic development program. Thanks to our partnership with Newton Running, the poorest, most vulnerable families in this community will generate more reliable incomes and take control of their economic futures by working together in a savings group.