The MASFRIJOL project is directed and managed by the Legume Innovation Lab at Michigan State University. This Project Brief (English or French) provides a short overview. See below for greater detail.

Project Justification

Despite the fact that the three sisters of agriculture (maize, beans and squash) were domesticated in the Americas and provide a wholesome diet when augmented weekly with animal foods and despite efforts to increase agricultural production, the indigenous Mayan population of the western highlands of Guatemala remains one of the most undernourished in the world (UNICEF 2013). Government and donor-led efforts have been reporting on the consequences of malnutrition in the Guatemalan population, particularly children of Mayan families located in municipalities with the highest stunting rates. Locally and internationally, this situation has been portrayed as a national shame since many consider that the country is rich enough to have prevented this situation (The Economist, 2009). Government-funded hunger and malnutrition relief projects are working in a state of emergency to improve the situation in priority municipalities. The USAID Mission to Guatemala’s Feed the Future Western Highlands Initiative Program (WHIP) has also launched a number of initiatives in close collaboration with local NGOs with strong local knowledge of the country. MASFRIJOL is part of the WHIP and is geared towards improving the nutrition of the entire family by promoting a greater consumption of beans.

Recent evidence-based dietary recommendations to address chronic malnutrition in Guatemala’s Western Highlands outline the importance of beans as one of the best sources for nutrients along with green leafy vegetables and animal-source foods (FANTA, 2013).[1] With the exception of 6-to8-month-old children and pregnant women, who have higher daily requirements for iron and zinc, FANTA III reports that the area’s malnutrition could be effectively addressed by a combination of these nutritious foods. Other research indicates that household energy consumption from own-produced beans is significantly enhanced by bean yield increases (Immink and Alarcon, 1991 and 1992). Unfortunately most smallholder farmers have limited access to productivity-enhancing technologies, limiting the quantities available for home use. These families also lack effective food storage to keep beans in the household until the next harvest season. Furthermore, evidence demonstrates that even available beans are not always consumed due a lack of understanding of how they can enhance growth and muscle building or due to taste fatigue and desire for enhanced flavors (Knight, 2013).

MASFRIJOL is proposed as a multifaceted four-year Associate Award to the Leader Award for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes (Legume Innovation Lab) funded by the Bureau of Food Security, Office of Agricultural Research and Policy, USAID-Washington and administered by Michigan State University (MSU) (No. EDH-A-00-07-00005-00). With a focus on beans, MASFRIJOL is designed to mobilize the expertise and experience of the Legume Innovation Lab and its network of partners to strengthen the USAID Mission to Guatemala’s efforts to achieve its Feed the Future strategic development goals for the country. Interventions that enhance the productivity of the bean–maize system and increase appreciation of the nutritional importance of beans are expected to sustainably promote greater household bean consumption, enhance the nutritional value of diets, and improve the food and nutritional security of highland Mayan communities. MASFRIJOL is therefore an innovative approach that combines agricultural and nutritional interventions and utilizes 4-wheel drive vehicles and community-based public technicians to reach households at their doorsteps to address the unique needs of the Guatemalan highlands.

MASFRIJOL intends to implement a portfolio of short-term and midterm activities over a four-year period (January 1, 2014–September 30, 2017) utilizing an overarching strategy to achieve maximum and scalable impact among the targeted Mayan municipalities. The Western Highlands are a culturally diverse, geographically rugged and isolated, climatically challenged area of Guatemala. To be effective, MASFRIJOL will customize activities to differences in language, gender, farmer organizational structure, recent history and agro-climatic conditions for targeted communities. MASFRIJOL's nutrition-sensitive technical approach involves a participatory needs assessment backstopped by the deployment of a suite of validated technologies, integrated management practices, and educational activities from the Legume Innovation Lab (including MSU and its partners).

MASFRIJOL’s development challenge is to improve household food security and the nutritional quality of diets of the rural poor. To accomplish this, the project will:

Increase bean productivity in highland cropping systems by:

  • Enhancing smallholder farmer access to quality seed of improved disease-resistant climbing and bush type bean varieties adapted to the agroecologies of the Guatemalan highlands through sustainable community-based seed production,
  • Improving integrated crop management decision making by resource-poor farmers from preplant to farm gate through education on a basket of sustainable yield-enhancing technologies and practices, and
  • Extending household storage of bean grain though the use of improved postharvest storage technologies such as the Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage (PICS) bag.

Enhance nutritional quality of diets by:

  • Increasing household dietary decision maker’s knowledge of the nutritional value of regular inclusion of beans in daily diets, especially as related to the nutrition and growth of young children and women of childbearing age, through the use of innovative communication platforms (videos, taste testing and recipe contests, etc.),
  • Enhancing household consumption of beans by teaching alternative processing and cooking methods for the preparation of easily digestible, bean-based foods for young children, and promoting household preparation and consumption of heritage and new bean-based dishes that include affordable locally available foods with complementary nutritional value, and
  • Contributing to comprehensive nutritional approaches of USAID Mission partners to link agriculture (as related to bean production) with Feed the Future’s goals of improving the nutritional status of young children and other family members.

Másfrijol Objectives

  1. To substantially increase bean productivity by resource-poor smallholder farmers in the agro-ecologies of the Western Highlands of Guatemala
  2. To significantly improve the nutritional quality of family diets through increased consumption of beans in combination with other complementary nutritious vegetable and animal-source foods.

Target Beneficiaries

MASFRIJOL will reach a minimum of 25,000 resource-poor smallholder households in approximately 200 communities located within the USAID Feed the Future target municipalities in five departments within the Guatemalan Highlands with customized technologies and educational programs for low-education learners on bean productivity and improved dietary practices.

MASFRIJOL will target communities within the 30 municipalities (“municipalities”) within the five Departments in USAID’s Western Initiative Program Initiative (WHIP).  Because there are two types of interventions planned, one for each objective, the interventions will be labeled Agricultural Education and Nutrition Education, respectively.  Although all communities would ideally be beneficiaries of both types of educational activities, seven of the municipalities have climates, soils and/or altitudes not suited for bean production.  For this reason, we describe the criteria for selecting the communities by type of education. 

The criteria for the selection of locations for agriculture education activities include: 1) the municipality has acceptable agro-ecological conditions to grow beans (with priority given to municipalities that produce and supply bean grain to markets in the seven “bean production-challenged” municipalities; 2) the communities are located in remote areas, but with access roads for the mobile units; 3) priority in Year 1 will be given to municipalities and communities with organized groups identified by the Rural Value Chains (RVCP) and PAISANO projects as well as by Nutri-Salud.

The criteria for the selection of locations for nutrition education interventions include: 1) the community is located within one of the 30 WHIP municipalities; 2) a rural health technician or a nutritionist from MSPAS serving in the community has agreed to work with MASFRIJOL;  3)  the community is located in a remote area, but with access roads for the mobile units; and 4) priority in Year 1 will be given to municipalities and communities with groups working closely with USAID implementing partners.

Strategic Approach

MASFRIJOL will adopt the following strategic approaches to inform project planning and decision making and to enhance effectiveness, sustainability and long-term impact of component activities to be implemented in the highland communities.

  1. Partnership with Public Sector institutions in Guatemala
    The vision of the Legume Innovation Lab is to administer the MASFRIJOL project in partnership with strategic public sector institutions in Guatemala to effectively link and integrate agriculture productivity enhancing and nutrition education activities at the municipality and community levels

  2. Collaboration with USAID FTF Implementing Partners in Guatemala
    To ensure alignment with the USAID Mission to Guatemala’s programming under Feed the Future (FTF) and coordination of field activities for increased impact, MSU and its national partner institutions in MASFRIJOL will work closely with the Rural Value Chain Project (RVCP), Nutri-Salud, and Title II programs.

  3. Consultations with Communities
    These approaches will allow MASFRIJOL to understand unique aspects of these Mayan cultures and communities in order to mobilize community action as well as build community capacity for sustained agricultural innovation and development.

  4. An Analysis to Pursue Gender-Integrated Approaches
    In designing MASFRIJOL, the gender assessment component was based on one major question: how to facilitate the participation of men and women located in remote locations? The answer has been to make participant attendance less time, cost and transportation demanding by moving the training and dissemination activities closer to households through the use of mobile units.

  5. Enhance Productivity of Traditional Milpa and Monoculture Cropping Systems
    Technology packages will be identified and promoted that will sustainably enhance bean productivity in both traditional milpa and monoculture cropping systems

  6. Reach Farmers at Their Doorstep
    Mobile multifunctional training units, e.g., four-wheel drive vans, staffed by trained technicians and equipped with audiovisual projectors, educational materials, and up-to-date bean and nutrition education technologies, will reach and engage people in remote communities. MASFRIJOL is adopting this strategy to make information and technology accessible to households in remote communities and to engage families at traditional points of social interaction, such as churches, markets, schools, and health clinics.

Summary of MASFRIJOL Expected Results

Project Objective

Indicative Activity

Expected Results

Increase bean productivity in highland systems

Participatory community needs assessments

200 communities (depending on population densities)

Almacenes Comunitarios

75 Almacenes

Farmers with access to improved bean seed varieties

25,000 households with access to improved bean seed varieties improving productivity

Enhance nutritional quality of diets




Improved technologies for household bean grain storage (PICS bag)


20,000 households with access to PICS technology

Nutrition education and promotion of nutritious bean-based dishes

12,000 households with access to nutrition education consuming more beans

Total beneficiary households


 Linking Agriculture and Nutrition.

MASFRIJOL YouTube Channel Programs

Nutrition Lessons


Lesson Plan 1: Malnutrition (English)


Lesson Plan 1: MASFRIJOL lección Desnutrición Crónica (Español Malnutrition)

Pre-post test Desnutrición Crónica V2

Niños 1 año

Niñas 2 años