Decent Rural Employment


Guatemala has experienced economic stability in recent years, with GDP growth around 3% since 2016. However, despite being the largest economy in Central America and its abundant natural resources, Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in the region and with the highest levels of inequality. Economic growth has not been adequately reflected in job creation and more than 70 % of the employed population works in the informal sector.

Addressing the youth employment challenge is particularly urgent given that Guatemala is a young country, with a slower demographic transition compared to other countries in the region, and thus a significant potential demographic bonus. According to the recent Census, the country has more than 4 million young people between the ages of 15 and 29, that is, 30% of the population.

In particular, more can be done to harness the potential of the agri-food sector in the country to contribute to the creation of decent jobs for young people.

See also: ICA Guatemala Rapid Context Analysis at:

ICA priority entry points

  • In collaboration with the Ministry of Economy (MINECO) and linked to the implementation of the new Entrepreneurship Law, support capacity development and coaching of around 40 established rural youth-led enterprises in selected western departments. Focus on business management, market linkages, innovation and value addition. Assess the main typologies of youth-friendly agri-business models and design a support package accordingly.
  • Generate knowledge on rural youth financial inclusion, followed by technical assistance to pilot innovations.
  • Enhance the use of ICTs for accessing information and marketing, starting from the Chisparural.GT platform.
  • Support youth networks like the Red Nacional de Juventud Rural or the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Jóvenes Emprendedores (ADIJE).


COVID-19: Voices of young agripreneurs in Guatemala

In Guatemala, the COVID-19 youth engagement initiative was launched through the FAO-supported digital platform ChispaRural.GT which provides youth-friendly content on agriculture and entrepreneurship, including training opportunities, success stories, practical tips, tools and learning resources.

Youth voices have been collected through FAO field programmes particularly in the Western Highlands, and in close collaboration with the Red Nacional de Jóvenes Rurales de Guatemala, a national network established in 2019 with support from the Ministry of Agriculture and linked to other rural youth networks in the Central American Integration System (SICA).

Effects of COVID-19

Due to the nationwide restrictive measures enforced in the wake of COVID-19, the productive activities of young people have been heavily affected:


  • Unemployment: since the pandemic started, many young people (or their family members) have lost their jobs or had to reduce their working hours significantly.
  • Transport restrictions: Young people were affected by the restrictions when transporting products from their communities to collection centers or local markets. Further, shipping services were affected due to the lack of reliable schedules.
  • Reduced market demand: Purchase volumes have decreased considerably, down to zero in the case of cut flowers, therefore young producers are reporting losses.
  • Limited sales: Young producers experienced issues selling to local markets due to the security measures in place. Those who sold to restaurants and local wholesalers have been affected by the closure of restaurants, as young suppliers of the School Feeding Programme are no longer selling their agricultural produce to schools, due to the Ministry of Education (ministerial agreement No. 825-2020) limiting the public purchases to non-perishable products.
  • Distortions in export markets: Despite continuing to deliver their product, youth involved in agricultural export have reported issues such as price decreases (for example pea export prices have decreased by 25%).
  • Discontinued education: Due to higher internet and transportation expenses, students report problems in following their virtual classes and sustaining their studies. 

Coping with the crisis

  • Alternative marketing and selling strategies: to keep their business active, many young entrepreneurs have requested permission for home sales and have sought to diversify customers and channels to promote their products, for example through digital marketing via social networks and WhatsApp.
  • Adoption of safety measures: they are using protective equipment, masks and antibacterial gel and are maintaining social distance as imposed by the authorities.
  • Adaptation of business plan and seizing of new opportunities: when their main productive activities had to stop (such as in the case of ecotourism businesses), young people with innovative mindsets have refocused their investments or started new ventures addressing the demands of the local market.
  • Product transformation: the surplus of fresh un-marketed products has opened a window of opportunity to learn how to process products and generate added value.
  • Preparation for the post COVID-19 world: taking advantage of the time available, youth have been exploring ways to expand the variety and availability of their products and services, so that once the crisis is over, they can generate more income to reinvest into their business.
  • Solidarity and mutual aid: many young people and rural families have reorganized their agricultural production to ensure family and community subsistence, helping each other among neighbors.
  • Online training: thanks to the use of technology and the support of some institutions, some youth have continued receiving technical support and sharing knowledge (see this short video in Spanish)

Interventions needed

In this scenario, the support requested by rural youth and the key rapid responses to keep (mostly informal) youth-led agribusinesses operating include:

  • Financial support: for example through cash transfers or facilitated fast and soft credit mechanisms, to cover the costs of feeding, post-harvest and income losses, transportation and connectivity, and to reinvest in the business.
  • Access to agricultural inputs: for example seeds, plants and farm animals, but also fertilizers, vitamins for livestock, supplies for product packaging, to support productive activities and provide for family subsistence.
  • Technical assistance and training: to continue acquiring useful skills for the development of their businesses
  • Food provision: to complement the basic food basket, especially to counter the rising prices and low supply of goods that are not produced locally (oil, rice, pasta, incaparina)
  • Psychosocial support: for mental wellbeing, self-care, self-control and learning to cope with crises.

Karina: innovating to overcome the crisis

Karina Brito, 22 years old, is a young entrepreneur from Nebaj, Quiché department, who has been able to seize business opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Together with a group of 20 young people, and supported by FAO, she had started a company called Avantichajil, which means “sowers of life”. They were planning to offer agro-ecotourism services, along with timber products. They had started the training with INAB (National Forest Institute) when the coronavirus arrived, putting everything on hold. National restrictions forced Karina and her team to suspend the ecotourism routes they had designed as well as the manufacturing of local wood furniture. They quickly realized they could not just sit by and watch so they looked for a way to diversify their products and attract new customers.

They decided to adjust the "Ixil Gastronomy" component of their ecotourism project to the new reality and got organized to produce local food and sell it online. Now they offer smoked meat, breads and toasts with chicken, plantain, banana bread, smoothies, coffee and more - all made with local products. Their venture is only a few weeks old, but the results are already encouraging. They sell through MercaRed, a platfom that brings together 7 different youth-led agribusiness networks.

“If we had remained focused on the initial project, I don't know how we would be now. You have to take some risk, step forward and innovate, and learn by making mistakes”, says Karina.

⇒ Read more stories of resilient rural youth from Central and South America (in Spanish)