Maria Rodriguez Fellow 2011
Living in: Guatemala City — Guatemala
Venture: Worms 4 Change / ByoEarth
Vermicomposting production and training model to promote health and development in rural and urban communties
Operating in: Central America & Caribbean
Impact Area: Clean and Green Technology, Community Development,...
Describe yourself briefly.
As I ended a business administration & tourism career in Guatemala City, I received an environmental management course where we learned about the different opportunities there are to transform degradable waste. The only thing I heard was “worms”. It was love at first heard, my heart pounded strongly because I had found the answer to my prayers, a unique way to connect my true passions, nature & entrepreneurship. From that day on, all I became interested in was worms and how to develop a professional business plan inspired by vermiculture & vermicomposting to end rural poverty in Guatemala. To do so, I participated and won a national business plan incubator and in the following years met SiKanda, a unique organization with a shared vision to promote vermiculture as a sustainable livelihood. To tackle the needs of a whole region, Byoearth (Guatemala) and Sikanda (Oaxaca, Mexico) gave birth to Worms 4 Change.
Describe your Unreasonable Venture in 100 words or less.
Worms For Change is an innovative Alliance between Byoearth (Guatemala) and SiKanda (Oaxaca, Mexico). We provide fringe communities in Guatemala and Oaxaca a replicable vermicomposting system and training model to promote health and development.
The Worms For Change Alliance addresses issues and mayor needs of our world that are strongly emphasized in Latin America. Food insecurity increases every day because of chemical fertilizers and bad use of soil. At the same time, global warming caused by methane (among others) that domestic and industrial waste produce when it is sent to a landfill is also increasing. Thirdly, there is an unmet need for a sustainable livelihood to alleviate poverty in rural and urban areas where mostly women need to generate an economic income to sustain their family and impact their community.
With strenght and passion, we address the lack of waste collection systems in marginalized, fringe and slum areas with a simple solution: WORMS
Describe your relevant experience (especially entrepreneurial).
Founding and managing Byoearth for the past four years has enabled me to accumulate experience in the very challenging and drastic context of Guatemala and its neighbouring countries. I studied business administration and hold masters degree in sustainable rural development to complement my performance as a young female entrepreneur in a male dominated field. At the age of 24 I hold various responsibilities in other non profit organizations development projects, related with vermiculture and vermcomposting expertise and skill transferring. I am a country reference for promoting social change with the use of WORMS. Passionate and crazy for worms!
Why is your team uniquely qualified to run this venture?
My teammates have years of experience with agriculture as a livelihood. They where born and grown in Guatemala's rural areas, therefore they know how to arrange logistics to achieve their job. They lack of opportunities and access to education and sustainable livelihoods has enabled them to find innovative ways to run a business and share their organic and local knowledge with others.
SiKanda is the only organization in southern Mexico working with people who live in landfills. Its members have 12 years of combined experience in development projects in Asia, Latin America and Europa. Through wormcomposting they have provided families living in slum areas with the capacities to improve their livelihoods and dignify their jobs.
What is the urgent social or environmental need you're addressing?
Worms 4 Change addresses 4 related issues and mayor needs of our world that are strongly emphasized in Latin America. Food insecurity increases every day because of chemical fertilizers and bad use of soil. At the same time, global warming caused (among others) by methane that domestic and industrial waste produce when it is sent to a landfill is also increasing. Thirdly, there is an unmet need for a sustainable livelihood to alleviate poverty in rural and urban areas where mostly women need to generate an economic income to sustain their family and impact their community. And fourthly, we strongly address the lack of waste collection systems in marginalized, fringe and slum areas.
What is your solution to this need? Describe your business strategy.
Worms 4 Change promotes and offers a solution inspired by nature since Creation: Vermiculture. We have a business model that has income drivers (products) that take care of the environment and provide vulnerable populations an opportunity to generate an economic income using waste as input. Vermiculture attacks the root cause of the issues we address because both its products and training model for vulnerable populations, transfers knowledge to recycle degradable waste (helping the environment), promotes the use of organic fertilizer (saves water, and increases yield per crop), and gives the opportunity to make the breeding of worms (vermiculture) an income generating livelihood.
Convince us it will work. What milestones have you achieved?
1. Proven model / pilot for producing organic fertilizer and breeding red worms.
2. KEY Partnerships to scale impact in Latin America
3.Income driver development in our business model (worm derived products).
4. International program participation, national awards for business incubation, participation with Secreatary Hillary Clinton on Pathways to Prosperity Programme,Alumni of SCU,Global Social Benefit Incubator, Sikanda Participation at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP-16)
5. Worldwide mentorship and networking support
6. Breakthrough projects on slum areas of Guatemala City and southern Mexico in collaboration with international organizations (The HUB Oaxaca, Heifer International, Technoserve, Fundación Junkabal, Initiatives of Change International and Ashoka).