In the Guatemalan village of Ixlú, Sara Noemi Rodríguez Vásquez tidies up her kitchen before heading to her job just down the road.
Along with 52 other women, Sara Noemi owns and operates Alimentos NutriNaturales, a cooperative that specializes in cookies, breads and other baked goods made with ramón-nut flour.
Once cultivated by the ancient Maya, ramón trees tower above Central America’s forest canopy.
These forests protect soils and waterways, help to regulate the climate and provide habitat for monkeys, birds and endangered jaguars.
But it's the fruit of the ramón tree that could hold the key to alleviating poverty, improving health, nourishing children and conserving forests within this region of Guatemala—the Maya Biosphere Reserve.
Ramón nuts are a super-food—fat free, gluten free and rich in vitamins and antioxidants. When roasted they taste a bit like coffee with a hint of chocolate, and their flour can be used to produce a variety of nutrient-dense—and tasty—baked goods.
The ramón-nut products made by Sara Noemi’s bakery are sold commercially and distributed to rural schools to help alleviate the malnutrition that is chronic in the area.
And by giving the ramón nut economic value, co-op members are also helping to prevent the clearing of forests where these trees thrive.
But it’s not just the trees that are thriving as a result of the cooperative’s work. Before the women started their bakery in 2006, many had never worked outside their homes; today their venture is a commercial success.
The co-op provides a source of additional income for members like Sara Noemi and her family.
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