Sierra Magazine: As Palm Plantations Grab Land, Mayan Women Organize

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I reported in Sayaxché, Petén with support from the International Women in Media Foundation to produce this story.

It focuses on how African palm oil plantations have impacted the Q’eqchí Mayan community’s food security. I profile a group of women that is working with a non-profit called Sagrada Tierra to maintain food production in the region, as the cost of staple goods goes up.

“’Before we didn’t have land, we lived on a hacienda,’ says Celia, an Indigenous Guatemalan woman with deep creases folded into her expressive face. ‘So, we came here to Petén.’

Celia settled in Petén during her country’s brutal civil war, when families like her own fled the violence in Alta Verapaz and other states. They found refuge in Guatemala’s northernmost state throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Land was plentiful, and they could farm corn, beans, rice, and other subsistence crops.

‘But then about 10 years ago, the palm companies came,’ Celia continues. ‘Our families did not hold on to their land, and they sold to the companies.'”