Barefoot College International’s inaugural collaborative initiative has completed the first phase of its program, training 15 women in drone flying. ‘Pilotas Resilientes’ (Resilient Pilots in English) is a women-centric rural development educational program that helps remote communities prosper. Through the training of women, villages gain greater resilience against Climate Change and local development impediments such as access to resources, education and bridging the digital divide.

Our partners Flying Labs Panama are the capacity trainers for this initiative and The World Food Programme has been overseeing the program as a whole. BCI’s responsibilities include support on trainee selections and regular community visits post-training. This partnership has enabled us to offer rural communities highly effective and comprehensive educational opportunities. We are grateful for the unique partnership with both entities.

women Guatemala drone flying livelihoods

Drone Pilot Women gain Income Opportunities

The 15 training pilots are from 3 rural Guatemalan communities from 3 distinct municipalities in the Ixil Mayan region in the Northeastern Highlands of Guatemala. The objective of the program is to demystify drone technology for rural women. Drones can, in the hands of women, help monitor their communities. This includes land disputes, checking on farms and livestock and recording natural disasters.

Drone flying also offers lucrative income-generating opportunities such as recording local festivals and events or selling photos to the local government or news channels. It may be that our trainees are best suited to use their drones to monitor conditions in vast areas when wide-scale damage is inflicted in local lands due to extreme weather.

women drone flying Guatemala indigenous empower

Drone Pilot Launch Event and Opportunity Mapping

In June 2023, different sectors came together at our Guatemalan campus to share and celebrate the first cohort of drone-flying trainees. Our special guests collaborated to generate and share ideas about the development of the Pilotas Resilientes program.

This project seeks to create economic opportunities and empowerment for indigenous and rural women through the use of drone technology for the generation of information. It aims to contribute to projects in rural areas of Guatemala. The first pilot is carried out in the Ixil area of the department of Quiché.

Approximately 50 people attended, and representatives from 9 different organizations were present. In addition, rural attendees joined who are candidates themselves for our next drone program in the coming months. We would like to thank everyone who attended and partook in our brainstorming session.

drone flying women indigenous guatemala


Everything we experienced during the program launch event gave us much to consider. In the
days that followed, analyses of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT)
were carried out in a participatory manner with the pilots in their communities. We appreciate the
presence of:

  • Rafael Landivar University
  • Chajulense Association
  • INAB
  • Philanthropy/ IARNA
  • MAGA
  • Save the Children
  • Guate In 5.0

women drone flying indigenous empower

Future Drone Flying Support and Avenues

Following the first phase of training which took place at our center with the help of Drone Experts Panama Flying Labs, trainees will continue to be supported from their communities once a week until January 2024 when they graduate the program. Each trainee is learning to navigate a DJI Pro Mini 3 drone, and all trainees also get access to laptops to store their content. Weekly visits to each community and Fly Missions by WFP ensure that the women continue improving their skillsets and autonomy.

The trainees now take drone footage on a weekly basis. This helps to retain their newly gained knowledge and explore entrepreneurial avenues. The possibilities rest in their hands, but with the ongoing support of multiple entities.

We are beyond impressed by their outstanding capacity to learn and thrive under this program and look forward to the training of an additional cohort with the support of our partners.

drone flying women guatemala empowerment