The majority of those living in the villages Ak’ Tenamit serves are subsistence farmers who earn less than $2 per day selling corn, fish, beans, and produce. These crops are often the families’ only source of income and their primary source of food. A single flood or drought can quickly wipe out an entire year’s harvest and leave families without food or income. Without a source of income, families cannot meet their basic needs, much less afford education or healthcare.
Ak’ Tenamit actively supports communities’ efforts to develop alternative income projects such as
handicraft cooperatives and community tourism initiatives.
These projects increase family incomes while decreasing dependency on slash and burn agriculture, hunting, and logging associated with subsistence farming. They also improve communities’ sustainability and encourage them to realize that they are capable of creating and implementing solutions to their own problems.
Ak’ Tenamit works with more than a dozen local handicraft cooperatives, the majority of which are composed only of women, and help them sell their products at gift shops around Guatemala. Our staff and students teach cooperative members to make an array of sustainable handicrafts and, after the initial training, cooperative leaders then train new members. Products include:
Being a member of a cooperative provides much more than income for the women who are members. They develop entrepreneurial skills and being able to contribute to family finances helps them gain respect amongst males in their family.
Many communities in Rio Dulce are working to become eco-tourism or community tourism destinations but face challenges because they, themselves, have never been tourists or run a business. Ak’ Tenamit supports local efforts to develop an eco-tourism industry, and education is at the root of our approach.
Community tourism destinations offer: