The IPSL and Origins of Food Guatemala One Health: Ecology, Culture, Justice program is a 3 week tour that takes you from the black sand coasts into the tropical mountain forests of Guatemala. This program will be an intensive and interactive program and service opportunity to engage with the culture, food, lifestyle, agriculture economy, and human, animal, and environmental health of Guatemala through expert lecturers, service projects, and site visits. During this program, you will critically examine, through a One Health lens, the social, political and cultural impact of food production on the environment, animals, and people of Guatemala.
Guatemala is a study in contrasts. A rich history of Mayan tradition and civilization is juxtaposed against a history of conquistadors, dictatorships and a decades long bloody civil war. Guatemala is one of the world’s largest producers of sugar, coffee and bananas yet has the fourth highest rate of malnourished children in the world and the highest in Central America. Why should there be such a disconnect between production and consumption? Additionally, Guatemala contains an impressive number of distinct eco-regions and high biodiversity and yet agriculture is increasingly encroaching on forests as Guatemala strives to develop into an economic and political world player. Witnessing the overlap of so many distinct contradictions is at the heart of the IPSL & Origins of Food One Health program in Guatemala.
In addition to completing a variety of workshops, service projects, conversations and activities, we will also indulge in the pure beauty that the Guatemalan landscape so frequently provides. From towering volcanoes to lush jungles full of life, you can expect to bear witness to a multitude of breathtaking landscapes and incomparable experiences.
Come join us on this once-in-a-lifetime journey to explore the intersection of food, health, animals, and the environment in Guatemala!
IPSL and Origins of Food
Guatemala One Health Itinerary
Days 1 - 2: Fighting for Human Rights in Guatemala City
Accommodation: Hotel Spring
We’ll delve right into Guatemala History 101 in Guatemala City, a city often ignored by tourists, but imperative to understanding the political climate and current events of modern day Guatemala. We'll kick things off with HIJOS, an organization led by the children of the disappeared during the recent 36 year Guatemalan Civil War. A member of HIJOS will guide us on a tour of the city’s street art, and explain how they use political graffiti in the capital to raise awareness of human rights violations. We'll complete our tour with a visit to the tiny Museum of the Martyrs and the Union, Student and Popular Movement of Guatemala. Located in an unassuming garage, this museum, also run by family of the disappeared, provides chilling evidence to the realities of Guatemala’s civil war. We'll learn how the global community is negotiating the peace process with a meeting at Peace Brigades International, an international NGO that has been promoting nonviolence and protecting human rights since 1981.
Days 3 - 6: Exploring Chocolate and Coffee in Antigua
Accommodation: Homestays with De la Gente Coffee Famers in San Miguel Escobar, 10 minutes outside of Antigua
We'll head from the modern capital to the colonial capital, Antigua, a cobblestoned town full of enchanting Spanish ruins, surrounded by three epic volcanoes and some of the world's best coffee fincas. Our first stop on the coffee trail is FEDECOCAGUA, the largest cooperatively owned coffee producer and exporter in Guatemala, representing 20,000 small to medium-sized farmers. We’ll meet with the head of FEDECOCAGUA’s social responsibility foundation and tour the co-op’s main office and processing facilities to gain a deeper understanding of the Fair Trade certification and cooperatively owned business model. We'll bring it back down to scale with De la Gente Coffee, a grassroots NGO that works with coffee farming communities to create economic opportunities, improving the quality of life for their families and communities. Local farmers will guide us through their coffee fields, teach us about the entire seed-to-cup process, starting with harvesting the coffee cherries in real time. DLG’s Executive Director will explain the difference between fair and direct trade and we'll learn how buying a coffee from Starbucks affects farmers around the world. We will also make pepian, a traditional Guatemalan meal with the farmer’s family, and practice slapping out fresh tortillas by hand. Next on our food tour of Antigua is Caoba Organic Farms, a five-acre bio-diverse, low-impact, organic farm outside of Antigua, where we’ll get our hands dirty working on the farm, from seed saving to weeding to transplanting micro greens. Saving dessert for last, we'll head to Ixcacao Chocolate, one of few chocolate companies in the world whose chocolate is made in the same region in which the cacao is grown. We’ll spend an afternoon with “Chocolate Bob,” Ixcacao’s founder and chief chocolate maker, who loves to regal us with stories of corruption in the chocolate world and beyond.
Days 7 - 8: Ringing in the New Year with Candlelight Caving and Natural Limestone Pools
Accommodation: Hostal El Retiro
We can’t let anyone visit Guatemala without visiting the incredible Semuc Champey National Park! We’ll head to the turquoise oasis of Lanquin where we’ll swim in Semuc Champey’s natural freshwater pools surrounded by lush jungle and tour its network of limestone caves by candlelight, a la Indiana Jones. We’ll relax along the Rio Cahabon and enjoy a bit of a New Year’s Eve party on the river.
Days 9 - 13: From a Tragedy, a Food Justice Movement is Born
Accommodation: Homestays with Qachuu Aloom
We’ll travel to the site of the infamous Rio Negro massacres to work and live with the women of Qachuu Aloom. The Maya-run organization uses agroecology to preserve native vegetable and medicinal seeds, promote food sovereignty and improve their food security and local economies. We will work with Q.A. in a community building capacity, whether it is aiding them in seed saving efforts or developing infrastructure for permaculture techniques, rainwater collection, and soil conservation.
Days 14 - 18: Permaculture and Organic Food Systems at Lake Atitlan
Accommodation: IMAP Volunteer Dorms
From the Rio Negro we head southwest to the stunning Lake Atitlan, an ancient volanic crater surrounded by three mythical volcanoes. First we'll visit IMAP, or the Institute of Mesoamerican Permaculture, a Maya-run permaculture organization that is experimenting with various appropriate technologies as well as carrying out important land access advocacy work for indigenous farmers. We will partake in workshops such as medicinal herbs, Mayan astrology and permaculture while enjoying the freshest Guatemalan farm-to-table food around. We'll also spend time with CCDA, the Highland Committee of Farmers, a cooperative of former revolutionary guerillas-turned-farmers who embrace social justice as their modern day battle and see coffee as a chance to improve their community’s education and health. The CCDA has developed a multi-tiered approach to address their communities’ food security issues. We will visit their headquarters to learn about their coffee processing, extensive organic compost and vermiculture facilities, community tourism initiatives and youth education programs. We’ll also have the chance to once again get our hands dirty in compost making, seed sowing and garden bed tilling.
We'll stretch our legs hiking the mythical San Pedro volcano and reward ourselves with the most breathtaking view of the lake from 3,000 meters above sea level. On our descent we'll visit San Juan la Laguna, a quaint predominantly indigenous town known for its natural dye textiles, and have the option to partake in a natural dye and weaving workshop. Finally, we'll visit Santiago Atitlan’s famed markets to witness the energy and buzz in this vibrant food and handicraft hub.
Days 19-21: Animal Conservation on the Pacific Coast
Accommodation: Surf Camp Hostel, El Paredon
We'll head due west to the volcanic black sand beaches of El Paredon and meet with ARCAS, whose mission is improving the chances of survival and conservation of endangered species and their habitat, as well as assisting in the rational management of natural resources. Depending on ARCAS' needs, we’ll either work in their Hawaii Turtle Conservation Parque or the El Salado Reserve. The Reserve is a future birdwatching and research destination ARCAS hopes to develop as a botanical garden and research center that will preserve native plants facing the onslaught of the destructive sugar cane industry.
We'll also take time to relax in these final days, hanging ten while taking surfing classes and debriefing our program over a farewell dinner before everyone flies out from Guatemala City.
“How does one sum up one of the best experiences of their life?”
— Aislinn, Virginia