Mercy Corps, USAID (where my sister-in law works), Wal-Mart (you heard right) and the Guatemalan nonprofit Fundación AGIL announced on Wednesday the launch of a four-way alliance called the Inclusive Market Alliance for Rural Entrepreneurs, described as "a bold solution to Guatemala's persistent rural poverty."
It's backed by financial commitments of $1.1 million from USAID, $600,000 from Wal-Mart, and $500,000 from Mercy Corps.
It's a bold move indeed to try to solve Guatemala's poverty problem with $2.2m, but the general idea is to wean Mayan farmers away from traditional corn and beans towards demand-driven production geared to supply major retailers such as Wal-Mart. The latter's role will be to advise participating small-holders through its local wholesaler Hortifruti, which will be aiming to provide these budding rural risk-takers with a consistent market for their new produce.
"Wal-Mart is committed to the future of Central America, and we are proud to be part of efforts to promote economic growth and improve quality of life in the region," notes Ignacio Perez, CEO of Wal-Mart Centroamerica. "Through this Alliance, we will be able to buy more quality product directly from more small, family-run farms. Farmers' standards of living will increase, and our customers will benefit from access to a wider variety of better products at competitive prices." All very gana-gana, as they say.
Nicaragua has broken off diplomatic relations with Colombia now too...