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June 17, 2021     4.5 Minute Read


Growing and Thriving with Guatemalan Farmers

Carlos Morales

Country Manager Guatemala and El Salvador

 

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Earlier this year, we began working with Enveritas to obtain their third-party verification to better understand our impact on coffee growers in Guatemala, and how we can make their lives and coffee businesses better. The verification process started by examining typical coffee farms located in the regions where we work, Huehuetenango, San Marcos, and Eastern Guatemala, to generate a baseline of data regarding where coffee farmers in Guatemala stand according to various social, economic, and environmental standards.

This analysis will serve as the foundation for a new project focused on sustainability standards, environmental protection, and social responsibility. At Caravela we are committed to cultivating awareness in coffee communities about gender equity, child labor, minimum wage compliance, soil conservation, as well as sustainable coffee production. These efforts require a committed team focused on long-term planning.  To learn more about our work with Enveritas, click here.

Having established a clearer context of coffee production in the region via data such as the percentage of farmers respecting the minimum wage, usage of permitted fertilizers and pesticides, and other social and environmental practices, the next step of the process was to perform a thorough analysis of the farms where we work in these regions and evaluate where we stand compared to the country overall based on a series of critical requirements and indicators. For instance, the following standards are measured:

  • No child labor
  • No forced labor
  • Minimum wage respected
  • Biodiversity protection
  • No banned pesticides
  • No deforestation
  • Income
  • Yield
  • Price USD/lb. received

Recently, we received the results, scores, and data collected via this study. Although we still do not have the complete picture to evaluate where we stand, it made us consider the progress and development that we have seen in the lives of Guatemalan coffee growers for the last three years. The following are some of the key strategies that we have implemented to assist coffee growers in Guatemala.

Establishing Fixed Prices: Fixed farm gate prices help coffee growers to focus their efforts on improving the quality of their product. For farmers, this is a game changer as their new strategy becomes increasing productivity and improving quality, instead of worrying about profitability and factors outside their control such as market volatility. We are aware that this shift in approach requires many changes/efforts that could take over two years to yield meaningful results.

We committed to establishing fixed prices in 2019 to offer producers increased financial security for their harvests and long-term planning capacity. As we continue growing with new farmers adopting and adapting to the model, likewise our quality grade distribution needs to evolve through roaster support. Growth goes both ways!

The following graph shows the median farm gate price that we have paid compared to the median prices for Guatemala determined by Enveritas’ study. *

Securing their harvest:  Historically, it has been commonplace to see coyotes or coffee merchants arriving at farms in Guatemala to purchase specific lots from their harvest, sometimes paying competitive prices, but leaving the rest (often the bulk) of the harvest without a buyer, causing uncertainty for producers. The creation of colectivos marketed by specific brands not only offers roasters larger lot sizes with more consistent cup profiles, but it offers farmers better sales opportunities and higher profitability for their whole harvest. This sourcing model allows roasters to buy bigger volumes from the same farmers consistently, offering farmers financial security and access to markets.  Additionally, we have:

  • Created our First Mobile Lab Program in Huehuetenango and Chiquimula to access remote areas and source ALL quality grades, especially coffee that would otherwise end up being sold at lower prices or as commercial coffee due to limited road access.
  • Offered transportation premiums as well as quality premiums to producers who live in a remote area but can work together to collect several lots and transport it as a community. This has been essential for producers to recover the money invested into the farm and have more operating capital available to continue harvesting.

Safeguarding for future generations: Ensuring the future of coffee means offering education and sustainability to the next generation of producers to continue producing coffee for decades to come. There are many young coffee growers ready and willing to keep cultivating coffee in Guatemala. To increase our support, we have expanded our presence in the country and our Grower Education Program.  This includes:

  • Establishing partnerships with FAO Americas to boost economic and social development for young leaders from rural coffee-growing communities in the Highlands of Guatemala. This support and education have been done through internships, mentorship, and the development of technical skills in the coffee chain.
  • Being an ally for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to support scale market access, creating a multiplier effect and extending our outreach to more farmers and communities, providing training and increasing their sales opportunities.
  • Sourcing coffee and establishing a presence in new regions such as El Progreso, Fraijanes and partnering with cooperatives and independent farmers in Alta Verapaz, Jutiapa, Quetzaltenango and Sololá.

Empowering Women Producers: Women in Guatemala have always played a critical part in coffee production, occupying roles in various parts of the chain, but they have rarely received the credit they deserve, and their presence has lacked representation in executive or leadership roles on farms and in their communities.

  • Since 2018 we have devoted more resources to increase women-produced coffee by establishing alliances and relationships with women producers from Huehuetenango, San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, and Chiquimula. It has not been easy, as women frequently face challenges with land ownership; in many cases women run the farm but have no titles, which creates a gap and hampers their ability to access financing programs, or even to sell their own product under their name. Through this effort, we have increased coffee purchased directly from women producers, especially this last harvest, when we purchased a total of 58 individual lots from female coffee growers.

We will continue implementing, adapting, and finding new ways to be present for our new and long-time farmer partners in Guatemala – harvest after harvest. With Enveritas, we will continue deepening our understanding of the needs of coffee growers there, and how we can contribute to a more sustainable coffee industry. We invite you to continue supporting Guatemalan producers with us. To be part of our efforts on the ground, you can join our Colectivos Sourcing Program and forward contract to build a sustainable coffee chain for all. Together we make coffee better!

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