Agroecology Practicum in Guatemala

Students in Guatemala

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  • Virtual Prep Week: June 13, – June 16, 2024
  • On-Site:  June 17 – July 2, 2024

This program will explore the historical and contemporary strengths and challenges to Guatemala’s food and agricultural system through the lens of Agroecology and indigenous-led agricultural development work. Examples of learning objective topics include developing students’ competencies in biological soil fertility and pest management, tillage and cultivation, crop care, and analysis of diversified farming systems. The course frames these more technical production competencies within learning objectives related to agriculture literacies, analyzing broader societal aspects of food sovereignty, and the development of equitable and ecologically sustainable food systems. By broadening student perspectives and understandings of our diverse global community, students will strengthen their ability to think critically about solutions. Studying and working in an unfamiliar place will support students gaining a clearer sense of who they are as learners, so that they leave the program empowered to tackle the challenges – both academic and nonacademic – that inevitably lie ahead.

Language of Instruction: English and Spanish (with translation into English)

Course: ENVS 133B:  Agroecology Practicum (6 units)

Max Enrollment: 19

Faculty Leader: Damian Parr (he/him)


View a student-produced video from the 2022 Agroecology program in Guatemala.

Quick Facts

Locations – Guatemala: Antigua, San Martin, Lake Atitlan

Eligibility – Good academic and disciplinary standing, Min Age: 18, 45 units completed at time of departure.

Minimum GPA – 2.3 cumulative GPA or higher at the time of application and every quarter prior to departure

Eligible Majors: Agroecology, ENVS, additional majors by permission of the instructor.

Application Materials 

  • Passport–  A passport valid for at least six months after the program’s end date is required to apply or a receipt indicating that it has been ordered.
  • Financial Agreement – Download, read and electronically sign the Financial Terms and Conditions document. You will be required to upload it in the application.
  • Statement – One page written statement describing – any previous experience in agroecology, food sovereignty, sustainability, food systems, agriculture, farming, and related topics; what you are hoping to learn from this experience; and how it fits into your learning journey and professional work aspirations.


  • Communities & Farms: Visit local communities in multiple locations and get hands-on experiences working with Mayan indigenous farmers in each area. Work side-by-side with local farmers and contribute to the ongoing work of campesino-a-campesino development and agroecology in Guatemala!
  • Volcan Acatenango: While in Antigua we will hike Acatenango, a dormant volcano that houses multiple zones of biodiverse flora. We will learn from local campesinos about the approaches to farming at different elevations of the volcanoes.
  • San Juan La Laguna, Lago Atitlan: The class will work at the Mayan-led Institute of Mesoamerica and Permaculture. We will visit San Juan La Laguna and learn from community members that have preserved the indigenous means of making coffee, tea, chocolate and using local herbs for medicinal purposes.


Application Fee

  • There is a Non-Refundable $200 UCSC Global Learning Application Fee. It is charged to your UCSC account after March 1, 2024.



Guatemala is a small country in the Central America region. It has borders to Mexico in the north/northwest, to Belize in the northeast, to Honduras in the southeast, to El Salvador in the south. It has a Pacific coastline to the southwest, and a tiny piece of Caribbean coastline to the east.

According to the 2018 census, 43.56% of the population is Indigenous, including 41.66% Mayan, 1.77% Xinca, and 0.13% Garifuna (Mixed African and indigenous). Approximately 56% of the population is “non-Indigenous”, referring to the Mestizo population (people of mixed European and indigenous descent) and the people of European origin. These people are called Ladino in Guatemala. The population is divided almost evenly between rural and urban areas.

About 65% of the population speak Spanish, with nearly all the rest speaking indigenous languages (there are 23 officially recognized indigenous languages). Many Guatemalans learn Spanish as an additional language, not their first language, and many speak both their indigenous languages and Spanish

The Maya civilization flourished in Guatemala and surrounding regions during the first millennium A.D. After almost three centuries as a Spanish colony, Guatemala won its independence in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century, it experienced a variety of military and civilian governments, as well as a 36-year guerrilla war. In 1996, the government signed a peace agreement formally ending the internal conflict. Mayan indigenous communities are strong and vibrant in their presence on the land and in their rich, intact, cultural foodways and cultural traditions. It is a great honor and privilege to be invited to learn with and from the families and communities hosting this course.

Weather and Climate

Summers in Guatemala are moderate to warm and there are periods of rain and no rain, nearly every day. Expect periodic rain with temperatures up to the high eighties Fahrenheit and lows around seventy at night. 

Learn more about the weather and climate in Guatemala here

Travel Documents Required for US Citizens

Passport required for US citizens. If you are not a US citizen please email to learn about additional travel documents that may be required. 

Country Information Resources


Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ)

Official Language(s)

Spanish (over 21 indigenous Mayan languages are spoken, but not officially recognized).


The majority of the program you will be housed in homestays, in a private bedroom in a local family’s house. During various points during the program you will stay in dorm-style accommodations.

Please note that elevators, air conditioners, and other modern conveniences may not be available in all locations.


Nearly all the meals will be provided during the program at host families homes, farms, and local restaurants, often coordinated by the farms and organizations we will be visiting. A few meals on the weekends will be on your own, recommendations will be provided.


While Guatemala is generally accessible, some locations may present unique challenges regarding mobility. These will be addressed as needed and accommodations can be made. Please email to inquire more about if this program is a good choice for you. 

Students with DisabilitiesIf you need support services abroad, notify your UCSC Disability Resource Center (DRC) Coordinator.

Identities Abroad and Away

UC Santa Cruz Global Learning is committed to inclusion and equity in our various program options as well as striving to make everyone’s experiences abroad enriching, positive, and safe.

Learn more on our Identities Abroad and Away webpage.


Course Description

ENVS 113: Agroecology Practicum

Lectures and demonstrations are combined with field applications to provide students with practical experience and develop their knowledge and skills in agroecology and ecological horticulture. Mayan farmers in Guatemala have created farming systems over many thousands of years that serve as incredible teaching experiences for studying agroecological theories and practices. Emphasis is placed on Indigenous small-farm and market gardening systems and community development projects throughout Guatemala.

The class and instructors will work with a team of Guatemalan Agroecology leaders on their farms and gardens across three regions of Guatemala; Antigua, San Martin Jilotepeque, and Lago Atitlan. The course will work with Indigenous Mayan farmers and community leaders who are restoring and advancing indigenous farming and food ways. A special focus will be on the history of the “Campesino-a-Campesino” methodology and approach to community-based agricultural development that originated in San Martin Jilotepeque, Guatemala, and has since spread around the world. The course will work in San Martin Jilotepeque on the farm of one of the original Campesino-a-Campesino Extension families, while also visiting and working with contemporary Indigenous Agroecology and Permaculture leaders in Lago Atitlan.

The purpose of this study abroad experience is to offer students the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in Mayan indigenous agroecology and food sovereignty movements in Guatemala and to gain an understanding of Guatemala’s ongoing efforts to create a more just and ecologically sustainable food system.

2022 sample syllabus*
*note: this is a sample based on a previous year’s syllabus. The 2024 syllabus will be available closer to the program start date. 

Course Credit

Students on UCSC Global Seminars earn regular UC Santa Cruz course credit which may be used to fulfill degree, major, minor, General Education (GE) requirements. UC Santa Cruz students can use UCSC Global Seminar courses to fulfill their academic requirements as listed in the General Catalog. Students from other campuses should consult with the academic advisors from their home campuses to determine whether courses taken on our programs may be used to fulfill their specific academic requirements.

Last modified: Feb 23, 2024