Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship in Guatemala

written by Reid Lustig

To fry an egg is no simple task. One must tromp through the forest harvesting wood with a machete, haul a hefty bundle back to the house on foot, arrange the sticks in a fire pit and nurse the flame to life. There are more than 8 million people in rural Guatemala depending on wood for cooking. For them the preparation required for even a simple meal demands a significant amount of effort and resources.

José and José cooking with biogas (photo by James Winfield)

José and José cooking with biogas (photo by James Winfield)

Now imagine a stove that burns so efficiently that the time and effort previously allotted to collecting wood is greatly reduced. Ponder a gas cook stove, which operates not off wood but rather off food waste and animal manure, or how electricity can be generated using the flow of a nearby stream.

These practical and affordable alternatives, such as efficient wood stoves, biodigestors and micro-hydroelectric systems, are what we are developing at Alterna by creating social ventures. Located in Quetzaltenango (Xela), our office and shop are staffed with the brains and brawn of an interdisciplinary group of professionals from across the globe. Although Alterna is a recently established organization, its core members have been working with appropriate technologies and social business development in Guatemala for more than five years.

Alterna harnesses local social entrepreneurship* in order to build economically sustainable ventures with the ability to serve those who lack basic services. We aim to develop products that are accessible to families who earn a limited annual income and can greatly benefit from savings in time and money, while ensuring minimal impact on the environment.

As our various ventures grow into maturity they will gradually be transferred into the hands of local entrepreneurs, rooting them within the Guatemalan economy. Developing profitable social businesses both fortifies the local economy as well as guarantees accountability for the products installed, ensuring long-term technical support for end users.

We invite those looking to bring positive social and environmental change in Guatemala to get involved with Alterna. To learn more about our ground-breaking enterprises, visit our website, call +(502) 7765-4225 or email Or just stop by: 6a calle 1-37 zona 1 in Xela.

Discover how you can become a social investor, provide your unique expertise through mentorship, or volunteer in this active learning environment.

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