De la Gente develops sustainable, community-led strategies to promote economic development, direct trade and improve the livelihoods of small-holder coffee farmers, their families and communities.
We focus on both sides of the cup: ensuring quality coffee for the consumers and quality of life for the farmers. Life is not always easy for disadvantaged coffee farming communities here in Guatemala. Isolation - geographically, economically and socially - has led to frequent disempowerment of the farmers in the coffee chain, high levels of vulnerability and extreme poverty amongst farming communities.
To help improve the quality of life for the farmers, we build long-lasting and trusting relationships with our partner communities, and we provide multifaceted support to help them, based on community needs. Whether in the form of needs analyses, technical training and advice, professional development opportunities, financing for capital upgrades, or grants of machinery, facility repairs, or supplies, we are there to help cooperatives grow and thrive.
Here are some of our success stories:
Micro Finance Program at work for Valeriana
Valeriana, 25, is a young mother of three wide-eyed daughters. She and her husband Mario have been involved with the San Miguel Escobar Cooperative for several years. Since they did not previously own land, Valeriana and her husband would purchase coffee fruit from farmers in the community and Valeriana would depulp, wash, sort, and pack her coffee for export with the cooperative and De la Gente.
In order to prepare 3,000 lbs of green coffee for export, Valeriana would need to process 20,000 lbs of fresh coffee fruit. Without the proper machinery, this resulted in many late nights and hours of work. But, Valeriana knew she could make a small profit, to support their household alongside her husband’s income, by purchasing and processing coffee fruit and selling it as green coffee. Then in 2016, Valeriana approached De la Gente to take out a small loan to purchase an electric depulper, so she could depulp her coffee fruit much more quickly and efficiently. Valeriana now has her electric depulper, which allows her to process coffee fruit more quickly and uniformly.
Since then, Valeriana and her husband Mario have saved some money, and with the help of a Land Loan from De la Gente, have purchased their first parcel of land in their own names. They purchased three cuerdas, which Valeriana says will be the first they pass on to their daughters, one cuerda for each daughter.
Root Capital Financial Advisory Services
Root Capital is a nonprofit social investment fund working with small and growing agricultural businesses in economically poor and environmentally vulnerable places in Africa & Latin America. They target businesses which are too big for microfinance from small community groups, but too small to secure credit from conventional commercial banks. It didn’t take them long to realize that access to credit as a stand-alone service was often insufficient to assure long-term prosperity for farmers, as many borrowers weren’t able to manage credit effectively. That’s why in 2006 Root Capital launched an advisory program with a goal to deliver financial training providing participants with the tools necessary to analyze data, manage and report their financial performance, achieve profitability and sustain growth of their businesses.
Root Capital has been working with the San Miguel Escobar Cooperative since 2017. Since the beginning of their trainings, the cooperative has made great strides in improving their organizational and financial policies. The Cooperative has created a strategic plan and several committees, such as a sales, marketing, and tourism committees, to see that the goals set forth in their strategic plan become a reality. They have created manuals regarding banking or petty cash policies, creating committee job descriptions, and employee guidelines.
The cooperative has learned how to mediate conflictive personalities and discussions, how to lead productive meetings, and make production processes more efficient across the cooperative.
New Fermentation Tanks in Ija’tz
As part of our Cooperative Assistance program, we aim to support cooperative’s in improving their production facilities to make the coffee harvest as efficient as possible, and ensuring the highest quality bean possible.
In January 2018, with the help of student volunteers from University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, the Ija’tz Cooperative became the recipient of new fermentation tanks to aid in their coffee production process. Through donations from the student group and other individual supporters of De la Gente, DLG was able to provide the funds to purchase all the materials and pay for the labor to build this necessary tool in coffee production.
Prior to this construction project, the Cooperative used the washing channels to ferment their coffee. The channels occupied the same space where the coffee would be washed a day and a half later, making the fermentation process inconvenient and time-consuming for the workers of the production facility. Now, with their new and improved fermentation tanks, production is much more efficient and uniform, leading to the high-quality coffee you have come to love.
Coffee Resiliency Project with the Borlaug Institute of Texas A&M University
A farmer from San Miguel Escobar has been chosen to partake in an international coffee study! Manuel Gutierrez has been chosen as a participant in a study orchestrated by the Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at the University of Texas A&M. The project titled the Coffee Resiliency Project is funded by USAID. The three-year experimental project will take place on the land recently purchased through a loan from De la Gente.
Participants in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras will plant new varieties of coffee in order to test their resilience against Roya (the coffee leaf rust), altitudes, and other plagues that often affect coffee. As a participant, Manuel attended a training in Honduras and cooperative leader Timoteo Minas also attended several trainings to support Manuel in the planting and care of this experimental land.
Manuel received 1,000 plants completely free of charge. This type of investment would typically run about $350. Manuel received 250 plants each of the following varieties: H1, Obata, Marsellesa, and Anacafe 14. These varieties are not common here in the Antigua coffee region, so Manuel is excited to see how they perform.
The project is set to last for just three years, but the organizers hope they will be granted an extension to be able to follow the plants success through five or more years. Manuel is the proud owner of eight cuerdas – an accomplishment not to be overlooked by a young man of just 32 years.
Participation in an activity such as this are not only beneficial to the participant, Manuel, but the cooperative as a whole. The other cooperative members are able to learn about new varieties, planting techniques, and fertilizers that they may not have been exposed to otherwise.