Guatemala: Portrait of a Guatemalan youth. © ACDI-CIDA/David Barbour

Guatemala faces significant development challenges. Ranking 128 out of 188 on the United Nations Development Programme's 2014 human development index, it is the second poorest country in Central America after Nicaragua. About 14 percent of the people live on less than US$1.25/day; another 26 percent live on less than US$2/day. The country also faces one of the most unequal income distributions in Latin America. More than 70 percent of the land is owned by less than 2 percent of the population.

The progress Guatemala has made toward achieving some of the Millennium Development Goals has been derailed by the recent global economic crisis. Severely affecting Guatemala's exports, the crisis also contributed to a drop in remittances from expatriates abroad. Normally, these remittances account for 10 percent of the gross domestic product. The country's already low tax revenues have fallen further.

Guatemala is also prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. As well, Guatemala experiences one of the highest murder rates in the world, with an impunity rate of 98 percent.

Agricultural productivity is low in Guatemala and, as such, the country imports basic grains to satisfy national demand. More than half of the population cannot afford to satisfy its basic nutritional needs: the rate of childhood malnutrition in Guatemala is the second highest in the Americas.

Mistrust between Guatemalans and government organizations have persisted since the ending, in 1996, of the country's 36-year civil war. Progress is impeded by economic and political instability as well as by governance-related issues such as corruption and serious challenges to respect human rights and the rule of law.

Find out what Canada is doing to support development in Guatemala.

Thematic Focus

Guatemala's economic reactivation plan and high-level discussions among the donor community have allowed Canada to align its international development program in Guatemala with other donors and respond to Guatemala's priorities.

The goal of Canada’s international development program in Guatemala is to increase food security through agricultural development.

Canada also contributes to human security in Guatemala by supporting the United Nations-mandated International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), an independent investigative body established to dismantle clandestine security structures and prosecute illegal security organizations in Guatemala. The Commission is training police inspectors, prosecutors and judges and strengthening the capacity of the state and civil society groups to investigate, prosecute and punish criminal activities.

Food security

Canada is helping Guatemala increase food security by improving agricultural productivity, rural competitiveness and rural incomes. Canada is fostering an environment where small-scale farmers in poor rural areas can increase their profits by improving the quality of their maize and beans and the marketing of these staples. To complement these efforts, Canada is helping strengthen the capacities of local government authorities to create and implement agricultural economic development plans and investment strategies.

Key anticipated results

  • Some 3,550 vegetable and coffee producers and 14 producers' associations will receive technical assistance and training in marketing to help them commercialize their products
  • Some 152 departmental and municipal employees in the city of Sololá will be trained in rural economic planning, investment and project planning to help strengthen local government
  • A specialized market-intelligence system will be developed to help some 75 farmers' organizations better respond to demand

Progress on Aid Effectiveness

Guatemala adheres to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (PDF, 317 KB, 23 pages) and has expressed commitment to poverty reduction and collaboration with donors. The donor community is able to work together to implement aid-effectiveness measures and help Guatemala meet Paris Declaration commitments.



Achievements 2009-20102

Food security

  • Helped train eight horticultural producers associations with 626 members and develop 124 demonstration plots, using 14 different horticultural practices to increase productivity
  • Helped train more than 200 coffee producers in regenerating land with previously limited production capacity
  • Helped triple membership in a key agricultural federation and increased annual income of producers from $39 to about $887 per family
  • Helped increase cardamom export to 20 countries around the world, resulting in a 10 to 20 percent increase in income for the families of cardamom producers

By working with Canadian and international partners, Canada is working to improve the health and rights of women and children globally, which includes the country of Guatemala.

Map of international development projects in the Americas

Map of international development projects in the Americas

2014-2015 international assistance disbursements to Guatemala (in millions of dollars)

Global Affairs Canada7.56
Other departments and sources0.6