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Guatemala coffee

World Day of Action for Food Sovereignty

October 16th is World Day of Action for Food Sovereignty, part of a larger movement to ensure that people have the right to be in control of their food and have access to wholesome, healthy, and culturally appropriate food.

Timo, one of the veteran San Miguel farmers, trains some of the Santa Anita coffee farmers about roya.

Timo, one of the veteran San Miguel farmers, trains some of the Santa Anita coffee farmers about roya.

As part of De la Gente’s mission to generate economic opportunities for coffee communities, DLG works with cooperatives to not just grow coffee, but support diversification of other crops too. This is especially important in light of the recent roya crisis. Check out the earlier posts that profile La Suiza community’s food security pilot project.  

Food sovereignty also has ties to the Campesino a Campesino movement, which began in the early 1970s in the Guatemalan highlands. It’s a method of exchanging knowledge and information through informal networks to share and develop successful growing techniques.  Campesino a Campesino is now a movement of hundreds of thousands of peasant farmers around the world.

De la Gente uses farmer-to-farmer training in agricultural education among the cooperatives that it works with, particularly for roya training, and has proven to be very successful. Learn more about DLG projects and how you can support them!

Caoba Farms Open House

Mindy, Andy and Jane get Saturday's brew of De la Gente coffee ready.

On Saturday, we had the pleasure of serving up De la Gente coffee at Caoba Farms’ open house and food festival. If you’re unfamiliar with Caoba Farms, it is an organic farm located on the southern edge of Antigua. Operating for over 10 years, they grow fantastic produce and supply it to locals, restaurants and visitors. In addition, Caoba Farms’ on-site store sells De la Gente coffee along with other locally produced, eco- and farmer-friendly food items.

Part of the Caoba Farms property.

If you enjoy good, fresh food, you would have enjoyed Caoba’s event. And don’t worry - they plan to keep these things going, so next time you’re in town, be sure to check it out!

In addition to showing off our farmers’ finely produced coffee, visitors were treated to:

  • Culinary students from Guatemala City grilling up kebabs, and dishing out quinoa salad, tzatziki sauce on crostini, and tortillas topped with romesco and cheese;
  • A former Chicago resident was offering up her line of nut butters, pestos, hummus, coconut oil and more
  • A Guatemalan woman was showcasing her all-natural insect repellents and household cleaners
  • Others were sharing cookies, carrot bread, ceviches, flavored salts and more.

A local woman gets her dough ready for the mountain of tortillas needed for the busy event.

We are always happy to be part of the work that Caoba Farms is doing, to spread the word and showcase high-quality and responsibly produced food and drink items. Be sure to stop by their store next time you’re in or around Antigua, and pick up some De la Gente coffee!

Roya Update Fall 2014

L: Harvesting a healthy coffee plant. R top: dead coffee fruit due to roya. R bottom: signs of roya

L: Harvesting a healthy coffee plant. R top: dead coffee fruit due to roya. R bottom: signs of roya

Thanks to donations, De la Gente has been able to further develop the Combat Roya Program (roya is a fungus, also known as coffee leaf rust, that attacks and kills coffee plants) and continue to support the cooperatives with whom we work.  In our evaluations which we undertook last year, it came to light that some of the cooperatives had lost 80% or more of their crops due to roya - leaving them with almost no income to support their families and little hope for a future in coffee farming.  Some families had already decided to leave the coffee industry and find work elsewhere. We needed to respond immediately to support these farmers and their families with both short-term relief and a move towards long-term sustainability.

 Our 2014 program has so far focused on the following work:

  • Crop replacement

  • Investment in established and new crops

  • Training and knowledge sharing to improve production practices

  • Livelihood diversification

  • Strategic cooperative planning

  • Strengthening networks between cooperatives

So far this year, we have worked on several roya projects in the communities of San Miguel Escobar, Santa Anita and La Suiza. We are also continuing to undertake training and strategic planning with the cooperatives of APPAECE, UPC and Santa Maria de Jesus.

Here’s a highlight of some of these projects:

Community consultations

Fertilizer training in La Suiza

Fertilizer training in La Suiza

  • In San Miguel Escobar, DLG organized a farmer consultation to discuss with the cooperative members their current needs and next requirements to treat and prevent roya. While they have been affected, due to early awareness and treatment the San Miguel cooperative has managed to control the impact of roya. Continued prevention therefore is the primary need. The cooperative members let us know their problems and came to a collaborative decision about what treatment materials would be most useful to them.

  • In May, DLG visited the cooperative of La Suiza, situated in the department of San Marcos in western Guatemala. There are 117 members of this cooperative and 600 community members in total. It is a very rural community which struggles with isolation, poverty and malnutrition. During this trip we coordinated a community consultation with both the board of directors and all cooperative members to assess their needs and to hear how they would like our support. We also conducted a field analysis of their current production. Alongside the community we planned to organize fungicide distribution and food crop distribution in the short-term alongside a longer term plan of processing and quality improvement.

Replacing lost crops

Young coffee pilones at the new tree nursery in Santa Anita, made possible through donations.

Young coffee pilones at the new tree nursery in Santa Anita, made possible through donations.

We have been working with the community of Santa Anita La Union for the past two years, supporting them in their struggles against roya. This community was hit hardest with high losses of crops, a consequence of climate conditions ideal for the spread of roya and a lack of inputs to strengthen their plants. We have been supporting them in replacing their crops. In 2013, we distributed 9,000 young plants to cooperative members. These plants are making good progress with the inputs and training that was delivered. This year, we also supported them in the building of a 10,000 plant tree nursery. De la Gente assisted with the planning, implementation and training on the management of the nursery. The community is currently caring for the plants and will organize the distribution of the plants amongst community members when they are ready to be planted. 

Distribution of roya prevention materials

Fertilizer training in La Suiza with cooperative members

Fertilizer training in La Suiza with cooperative members

  • Following the consultation in June, we distributed fertilizers and fungicides to members of the San Miguel cooperative at 50% of the cost. This ensured that members that most needed them were able to get supplies while also financially investing in the care of their land. Through this distribution we were able to support 18 farmers.

  • Following the distribution of replacement crops and the start of the tree nursery, the next stage for Santa Anita is to focus on investing in the care and protection of these plants so they will be ready for production next year. Thanks to donations, we have been able to help the farmers apply a range of fertilizers, fungicides and foliars to their crops. In March, we conducted the first round of applications, in April we followed up with further applications of foliars and fungicides to protect their crops, and finally in June, we visited the community to apply a third round of fertilizers to boost the crops growth. Now the community can look towards a better harvest in October, and continue to invest in their crops for a much improved 2015 harvest. Alongside all input distributions we conducted training on analyzing the problems with the production, best care practices and available treatment options.

  • In the promotion of cross-cooperative collaboration the San Miguel cooperative generously loaned their motorized backpack sprayer to Santa Anita to help them treat their plants more efficiently and effectively.

Livelihood projects

  • One of the most devastating impacts of roya has been that the lack of income has led to shortages of food within households. Roya has brought to light the vulnerability of coffee farmers and the over-reliance on coffee as the family's sole resource. We are working with all of our cooperatives to encourage diversification of both income and crop growth.

  • In July in La Suiza, we began a food security pilot project - to bring food crops to the families. Working with approximately 30 women in the community, we implemented three food gardens and distributed a range of seeds - from radishes to tomatoes to beans. The women are the leaders of the whole project from preparation to maintenance to harvest. We delivered training on the best practices and will follow up with additional training and seeds in September. We hope this is the start of a healthier future for the families. Growing food crops is a big change for the farmers here, and the skills they have learned during training will last a lifetime.

Strategic planning and professional development

Representatives from DLG's partner cooperatives

Representatives from DLG's partner cooperatives

  • In July, we held our first ever DLG conference. We funded farmer representatives and leaders from all of our member cooperatives across Guatemala to attend. We held a training session to cover production and processing methods in the morning, and a strategic planning session in the afternoon. The following two days, the representatives attended the National Coffee Conference of Guatemala where they had the opportunity to meet other leaders in the coffee industry and learn about current issues in the industry such as roya and climate change.

All of our programs are based on a vision of long-term sustainability for the cooperatives we work alongside, and we will be continuing to work with the farmers to reach this objective. Thank you to those that have donated to our Combat Roya Program. With your help, we have implemented projects that otherwise would not have been achieved. We need to continue our work as roya will continue to be a factor for years to come and the cooperatives and families with whom we work need continued help for the next couple of years until they are back on their feet and can be self-sustaining once again., You can donate online at https://www.dlgcoffee.org/donate

Coffee export on the way to the US

Loading the first container of coffee, one 150-lb sack at a time.

Loading the first container of coffee, one 150-lb sack at a time.

De la Gente’s sales model – selling coffee direct from farmers to consumers – lies at the heart of our ability to enable cooperatives to capture the full value of the coffee they produce. By retaining control of the coffee from producer to sale, we ensure the best quality for our buyers and the best economic benefit for our farmers.

Our goal is to make ordering coffee direct from cooperatives as simple as possible, whether you’re a coffee drinker, roaster, cafe or institution. This past week, we packed up our first container of coffee from this year’s crop. So when all 38,550 lbs arrive in the US, you can order coffee from us just as easily as if we were any other coffee roaster or green coffee importer. Except, of course, we’re not – when you buy from De la Gente, your purchase stretches all the way to the farmers in Guatemala who grew that coffee.

Our first container of coffee has just left Guatemala, and will land in the US at the port of New York/New Jersey, where it will then travel by truck through Chicago on its way to Woodville, WI and arrive around the third week of July. You can follow our posts on Facebook and Twitter to track the shipment. We also expect to package another container this summer to ship at the end of July, so keep looking for updates!

Coffee fruit loans distributed for 2013/14 harvest season

In January, De la Gente distributed nearly $16,000 in loans from our mircofinance program to 22 different farmers. The loans allow cooperative members to either grow their businesses or supplement their harvest if they are waiting for their own plants to mature and produce more fruit. Since coffee fruit costs less than processed green coffee and roasted coffee, the farmers are able to increase their profits by purchasing fruit at a lower price and then processing the coffee themselves and selling the final product at a much higher price.

APCASA celebrates inauguration of bodega

A special event took place in February, as multiple cooperative representatives from across the region came together to celebrate the inauguration of APCASAs new bodega. The bodega, which is typically used as a dry store for coffee and processing machinery, also serves as meeting space for community and inter-cooperative discussions and training.

The meeting was a grass roots initiative, organized and facilitated by Don Rigo, community leader of APCASA, and had 3 objectives:

  1. Inauguration of the new building, implemented by As Green.
  2. Undertake a coffee cupping – to demonstrate to farmers the importance of understanding the flavors of their coffee. A cupping is an essential part of the decision making process for buyers – if farmers want to export to international markets this is an activity they need to become familiar with. Samples from each of the groups was tested by all of the farmers. Representatives from Quijote Kaffee, a German-based coffee roasting company, led the cupping training.
  3. Build the network of cooperatives and small scale farmers - friendship, trust and knowledge sharing are essential to the progress and future sustainability of small scale coffee growers. The meeting served as a platform for discussions and knowledge sharing on topics such as exporting coffee and Roya.

Check out these links for press on the event.

APCASA receives coffee fruit de-pulper

Thanks to a generous donation from Mike Hatfield of Zion Coffee, the APCASA cooperative in Santa Anita received a much-needed machine called a demucilager, which is used to produce semi-washed coffee. The machine uses very little water compared to other processing techniques, making it very useful in areas where water is in short supply. The machine is also considerably less labor intensive. The demucilager will allow the co-op to process their coffee as a centralized group. APCASA plans to install the machine in their newly constructed bodega, which was financed partly by De la Gente and partly by a Rotary Club.

“This machine is just what we need in order to produce coffee for export,” said Riogoberto Augustin Ramirez.  “We cannot thank Mike enough for his generous donation and support of APCASA.” 

APCASA-demulcilager.jpg