De la Gente works with several coffee cooperatives around Guatemala; each one with distinct characteristics and at different stages in coffee production and development. Among them is a cooperative in La Suiza, a community of 600 people, located in the remote western highlands in the San Marcos department. The 116 member cooperative (ACUPDIC, Association of Farmers United for Peace and Whole Community Development) is comprised of former guerrilla fighters and internally displaced people from the 36-year long Civil War. After the war, the land was purchased collectively through loans offered during the Peace Accords in the 1990s. It is the most rural and isolated of the cooperatives with whom we work. Due to its remoteness, the lack of public transportation and basic government services, poverty and malnutrition are of great concern. Two years ago, the roya fungus (coffee leaf rust) in Central America destroyed nearly all of their coffee plants, forcing farmers to start almost completely anew. De la Gente began working with La Suiza at the height of the crisis.
Since then, the community has come a long way. Thanks to generous supporters and volunteers, over the past two years De la Gente has provided assistance in several areas ranging from repairs to the beneficio and dynamo (which supplies their only electricity for just a couple hours a day during the rainy season) to crop diversification projects. The dominant project has been the management of roya, consisting of farmer-to-farmer trainings and fertilizer and fungicide assistance. With healthier coffee plants that are more resistant to roya, La Suiza has a harvest this season after producing very little coffee the past few years. The community now has a restored and promising coffee future.
In fact, De la Gente and the cooperative have signed an agreement to export their coffee this year, which is a first for the cooperative! The members typically rely on coyotes that come to the community to buy their cherry fruit at prices below production costs, continuing the cycle of poverty. The export is a huge step forward for the members, ensuring they make more money from their coffee than ever before. Due to the climate and timing of the rainy season in La Suiza, they have already finished the harvest for 2015. The coffee arrived at DLG last week. All parties are excited for the future of the cooperative and the community.
Stay posted for exciting news from La Suiza and when their coffee will be available for purchase in the United States and Canada.
DLG would like to extend our gratitude to the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club, whose generous support made the La Suiza project possible.