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More than calories

Food diversity and improved health for Maya children in Santa Cruz La Laguna

More than calories: Food diversity and improved health for Maya children in Santa Cruz La Laguna

Village communities Jaibalito and Santa Cruz La Laguna, Atitlán highlands,
municipality of Sololá, Guatemala

Food security, hygiene, awareness raising, support towards self-help

Direct: 1,050 individuals from 150 families; a further 5,500 people via radio broadcasts and 3,900 individuals using health centre services

Indirect: an additional 7,500 people

Asociación Vivamos Mejor Guatemala, Panajachel, Guatemala

The planned project costs to be borne by Vivamos Mejor amount to CHF 760,053. They do not include own contributions and local contributions.


Project Background

In the village communities of Jaibalito and Santa Cruz La Laguna, over 70% of indigenous infants are malnourished. Families have unbalanced diets because of a lack of knowledge about what a healthy diet is. Many children also suffer from diarrhoea due to poor hygiene conditions. They can’t get enough nutrients from the limited amounts of food. Malnutrition and undernourishment, especially during the first three years of life, have severe effects on future cognitive and physical development and thus have lifelong consequences.

Our approach

150 families learn in culturally adapted and practical workshops how they can widen the range of their diet with important foods by growing fruit and vegetables in their gardens. We make them aware of healthy nutrition and hygiene and create a basis for changing behaviour. By building latrines and improving the quality of drinking water, we counteract the widespread incidences of diarrhoea. Thus, we lay a foundation for age-appropriate cognitive and physical development for 300 indigenous children under the age of 5 and 450 of their older siblings.

Project goals

1,050 people from 150 families in the village communities of Jaibalito and Santa Cruz La Laguna  have improved their nutrition.

  • 150 families with 1,050 individuals apply the principles of healthy eating and provide their children with a balanced diet. Further 5,500 people receive information about age-appropriate diets, its connection to malnutrition as well as hygiene via regular radio broadcast.
  • 150 households with 1,050 individuals have improved their sanitary infrastructure and follow adequate hygiene measures.
  • Municipal health stations have improved their performance in preventing chronic malnutrition.


Malnutrition and under-nourishment, especially during the first three years of life, affect the children’s future physical and cognitive development and exacerbate the poverty spiral. This has consequences for health and well-being in adulthood and hence also for society’s development as a whole. Conversely, an improvement in dietary conditions can lead to significant developmental successes with modest investments. Scientists are therefore calling for priority to be given to fighting malnutrition and under-nourishment. Between 2017 and 2022, Vivamos Mejor carried out the first project to combat malnutrition in children under 5. The intervention consisted of three components: advice about nutrition, enhancing cultivation and improving the sanitary situation. An external evaluation showed the positive effects of the project on the nutritional and health situation of the families.

Further information on the impact of our project work can be found here.

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