Financial Inclusion, Gender, and the Commercialization of Peasant Agriculture in Guatemala

Authors: Ryan Isakson*, University of Toronto - Scarborough
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Gender, Food Systems
Keywords: Financial Inclusion, Financialization, Gender, Agrarian Change, Guatemala
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Microfinance is widely celebrated as a development intervention that can alleviate poverty and empower its predominately female client base. In an increasingly global campaign to deliver on these promises, it has arguably become the most widespread development practice in the 21st century. Yet, as critics observe, the standard approach for delivering microfinance is unlikely to benefit one of the poorest and most marginalized populations in the global South: small-scale and peasant farmers. This paper analyzes efforts to design a microfinance product that aims to overcome those design failures, thereby facilitating the inclusion of the rural poor into formal financial markets. In particular, it focuses upon a recently implemented microfinance product that targets poor and indigenous K’iche’ Mayan women in rural Guatemala with the dual objective of facilitating the transition from subsistence-oriented peasant agriculture into global value chains while increasing female participation in – and control over – the predominantly male domain of cash cropping. Drawing upon recently collected interview and survey data, the paper critically evaluates the potential of financial intervention alone to correct for the historical marginalization of Guatemala’s peasant farmers and deeply rooted gender relations. Specifically, it documents how the layering microfinance upon an agrarian landscape that is stratified along the lines of class, gender, and market power exacerbates unequal vulnerabilities and fuels socio-economic differentiation.

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