For the first time in DLG history we will have three different coffees to offer online! We are thrilled to offer coffee from Huehuetenango - a renowned coffee growing region in the Northwest highlands - as well as coffee from the La Suiza cooperative in the San Marcos region. This is the first year farmers from La Suiza have exported their coffee, making you the first customers to try it!
The cooperative in La Suiza is rich with history that reflect's the country's struggle in the last decades. The community was formed after the Guatemalan civil war ended in 1996, bringing an end to a 36-year conflict that waged destruction throughout the country. The inhabitants of La Suiza are displaced indigenous Mayan families that spoke different Mayan languages, but have needed to adopt Spanish as their primary language so they could all communicate. The government financed the sale of an abandoned coffee plantation to the community, located very remotely even for Guatemalan standards. It is difficult to reach even in a 4x4 truck, and electricity is available only during rainy season (usually 6 months out of the year). The nearest hospital is over 2 hours away by vehicle, but there are only 2 or 3 vehicles in the community. A government program provides a midwife who visits the community, but oftentimes the government does not pay for months at a time and so they go without care.
The community was hit hard (yet again) about three years ago with roya (coffee leaf rust) and lost nearly all of their coffee plants. DLG has been working to ensure that La Suiza's coffee recovers, and that they have additional sources of income and food. We have helped them plant a community garden and plant shade trees that double as food and/or income, such as avocadoes and bananas. We also contributed to a community nursery to provide replacement plants, provided hands-on training on proper plant care to prevent the recurrence of roya, and donated agricultural materials needed to treat their plants for the first 2 years. This work was made possible by the generous support of the LATA Foundation.
That work enabled La Suiza to bounce back and again have coffee to harvest, but to be a long-term sustainable source of income for the community, La Suiza would need to sell their coffee at fair prices to a reliable buyer. Before roya, members of the cooperative would sell their coffee fruit to coyotes (middlemen) at a fraction of its true market value, often only recuperating their costs of production. DLG was able to provide training on processing methods to produce quality coffee that meets specialty standards, and commit to purchasing a small test lot at a much higher price. The outcome has been tremendous! The coffee tastes great, and this year the farmers made about twice what they made the previous year. Can you imagine receiving that kind of a raise at your job? The community has renewed hope and is ready to work hard to scale up the volume of coffee they process in 2016. This work was made possible by the generous support of The Rotary Club of Sanibel Captiva.
The cooperative with whom we work in Huehuetenango is a fairly well-established cooperative that has been exporting coffee for a number of years. There are 140 members with a nearly 50/50 split of men and women. In the other cooperatives that we work with, the members all live in the community and hike to their fields outside of town on a daily basis. Huehuetenango is different in that they live in the highlands on their land that they farm. This definitely cuts out the walking time to and fro, but can make life more isolated. The land that they farm, while it varies in degrees of incline, is usually quite steep, in fact, it is mind boggling when thinking about how they have to traverse this terrain daily, normally carrying a lot of weight.
These new coffees will be available for a limited time in a 3-bag sample pack as well as individual bags. Make sure to order some while they are still available!