© Helvetas


Guatemala is endowed with biodiversity and a wealth in natural resources. Macro-economically it is advancing progressively, yet it the wealth is very unequally distributed and the majority the population is poor and chronically malnourished, especially in the countryside and amongst women and indigenous people. Helvetas works with the local governments, community-based organizations and progressive companies to promote economic and political empowerment of rural indigenous women, good governance, proper delivery of water and sanitation services and sustainable community-based soil, water and forest management – and enables poor and vulnerable to earn more and improve their lives.
© Helvetas
  • Capital
  • Area
    108,889 km²
  • Poverty rate*
    59% of the population live under the poverty line of $1.90 per day
    Rank: 135 out of 191
  • Population
  • People supported per year
  • Thematic focus
    WASH & Water Governance
    Private Sector Development
    Climate & Disaster Resilience
    Gender & Social Equity
    Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion
* Source: UNDP Data

The economy is booming, and yet inequality and poverty in Guatemala are very high. It is amongst the 10 countries worldwide with highest unequality. 59% lives under the poverty line (and it is estimated to has gone up with 15 to 20% due to the pandemic). It is the country with the 5th highest chronic malnutrition globally, and infant and maternal mortality rate are high. Violence against women is widespread affecting 60% of the girls and adult women. These problems plague indigenous rural communities in particular, which make up over 50% of the population. Their economic plight has actually significantly worsened in recent years.

Inclusive economic development

Helvetas has been active in Guatemala since 1972. We work with farmers associations, local governments and progressive companies to promote grass-roots initiatives of women smallholder farmers, and stimulate their effective and equal participation in the economy. We strengthen their organizations and improve agro-business skills to increase production and income by collectively marketing their produce, such as vegetables, poultry and coffee. We also structurally facilitate their access to markets and services and remove structural barriers from their empowerment.

Similarly we facilitate that youngsters form associations for community tourism and forest conservation, integrate into the tourism industry and gain significant incomes.

Water and sanitation governance

One major problem in Guatemala is access to clean water and functional sanitary facilities. Nationwide, not even half the population have clean water and latrines at their disposal. The local authorities are often unable to secure the water supply.  Helvetas supports them in setting up municipal water offices and train sanitary technicians.

Helvetas has launched many initiatives to facilitate that local governments and communities take their responsibility and improve the quality of their water and sanitation services, sustainable. We assist many communities to protect their watersheds, applying payment-for-environmental-services mechanisms (PES) where water consumers pay the actual cost of protection and reforestation. Equally we assist many communities and municipalities to regulate their water and sanitation tariffs better and attain cost-recovery, while investing in water purification and maintenance. We assist municipalities to set up effective water and sanitation and build capacity of community water committees. Further we assist communities to put social norms in place regarding health and sanitation, and assist them to achieve that all families in their communities build and maintain their won latrines, wash their hands and manage the fecal waste in their households, with their own resources, and support local masons and hardware shops to offer relevant sanitation products in the rural communities.

Women participating equally in politics

Women are largely excluded from decision-making in Guatemala. They occupy less than 2 to 5% of the political representation in the communities, municipalities and national politics. 75% of women are not allowed (by their husbands and family) to freely participate in public meetings. As a result, women’s interest and needs are largely neglected. Less than 0.5% of the state budget is allocated to women’s priorities and the women’s highest concern, the excessive exposure to violence, is not addressed in any significant way.

For this reason, Helvetas and its partners support women leader to gain political skills and momentum  and facilitate that municipalities take their concerns and needs more seriously. In order to achieve this, we seriously invest in promoting positive male role models as well, and lobby for the inclusion of gender equality and women’s empowerment indicators in the municipal ranking (that the government uses for their resource allocation).

Visit the website of Helvetas Guatemala.

The country programme in Guatemala is co-funded by the SDC programme contribution.

© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
Jungle © Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
© Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
Youth © Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
© Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
Potato harvest © Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
© Helvetas, Flurina Rothenberger
Forester © Helvetas, Flurina Rothenberger
© Helvetas
Farmer © Helvetas
© Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger
Farmers © Helvetas / Flurina Rothenberger

Our Projects in Central America

If you would like to know more about our work in Guatemala, click on each project for details.

jeune formation carrelage Haïti | © Helvetas
Haiti Education and Vocational Skills

Training young people for the working world

© Helvetas
Haiti Climate & Disaster Resilience

Better Prepared for Storms

© Helvetas / Simon Opladen
Guatemala WASH & Water Governance

Good Governance Makes for Good Water

Guatemala Private Sector Development

Women´s Agro-entrepreneurship in the Highlands

© Water for food
Global Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Tackling Corruption in the Water Sector

© Helvetas
Guatemala Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

Entrepreneurship in the Guatemalan Highlands

WASH & Water Governance

The most vulnerable communities suffer from dirty and scarce water. Annually we help up to 500,000 people get new access to drinking water and basic sanitation.

Education and Vocational Skills

Lack of education perpetuates inequality because poor countries cannot compete economically without a skilled workforce.

Private Sector Development

Youth need access to reliable, fairly paid jobs to break the cycle of poverty. Helvetas creates partnerships and promotes policies that build more inclusive economies.

5ª calle 15-44 zona 3
Ciudad de Quetzaltenango, Quetzaltenango

Phone:+502 27767-1569 / +502 7767-5569
E-Mail: helvetas.guatemala@helvetas.org