HOJA BLANCA, Guatemala — From his wooden hut in the foothills of the Sierra Madre, Rodrigo Carrillo can see the product of his life savings: A vast green sea of coffee plants, sprouting red berries like tiny Christmas ornaments.
Those plants once seemed a life-changing investment. Carrillo joined a cooperative that sells beans to Starbucks and several certified fair-trade organizations. In Guatemala’s fertile highlands, there was no faster way out of poverty than to supply American coffee drinkers.
But in recent years, the price of coffee has crashed, leaving Carrillo, 48, with a choice to make.