In Guatemala, Mosaic and our partners are moving smallholders from subsistence farming to a surplus though a replicable development model centered on high-quality farm inputs, agronomic expertise and financial assistance.

Mosaic has partnered with our customer, Disagro, and HELPS International since 2008, assisting farmers, their families and their communities by increasing corn yields. HELPS is a non-governmental organization that addresses economic development, health and education issues by teaching people ways to become self-sufficient. Together, we developed and implemented the "Corn Program" in the Guatemalan province of Alta Verapaz.

Mosaic contributes its agronomic expertise and more than $350,000 annually to support the purchase of fertilizer and the installation of water filters to reduce water-borne diseases, energy-efficient stoves and solar lights, while enabling HELPS to provide no-interest loans to the participants. Farmers sell surplus corn at local markets, repay their loan and use the remainder to care for their families.

This is, first and foremost, a partnership. Understanding the cultural sensitivities of the local people is paramount to success. For example, farmers prefer traditional seed varieties over modern hybrids, as corn is sacred to the Maya, and they prefer the taste of the Mayan black corn to the more productive white corn. Farmers are encouraged to join the program, not pressured. Some farmers are early adopters, eager to accept the opportunity, while others are more cautious and wait for their neighbors' results before committing.

More than 90 percent of farmers who entered the program in 2008 generated enough capital to no longer need loans to buy inputs. They graduated and now act as mentors for new farmers joining the program. With the high loan repayment rate, the program naturally expands as these repaid monies are reinvested.

The benefit this brings to the overall health of the community is immeasurable. Before intervention, farmers struggled to grow enough corn to meet the needs of their families. They would travel to other parts of Guatemala, Central America or even the United States to find work, which divided families and often left the farmers susceptible to danger. With no access to capital and no credit history, the cycle of poverty was nearly impossible to break. Post-assistance, the farmers produce enough to eat, plus a surplus to sell at market, and can now consider using some of their land for cash crops to further increase income. In 2011, we will serve 1,000 farm families, spanning 50 villages in Alta Verepaz.