Contact name: Bill Fishbein
Project URL: www.thecoffeetrust.org
Organization Name: The Coffee Trust
Project: Food Sovereignty Project
Projected Impact: 150 women and approximately 750 family members
In 1988, the specialty coffee trade took its first steps toward sustainability at origin. The native people did not initially welcome the steps, as the trade had always bristled at social issues in the past. Shortly thereafter however, what had started out like trying to install teeth became good for business, and suddenly every specialty coffee business had a social cause associated with its coffee.
Consumers like to purchase coffee that supports people throughout coffee’s supply chain. Unfortunately, there is not a direct correlation between what is good for business and what is good for the farmers. Despite 25 years of sustainability efforts and the numerous sustainability programs in place today, living conditions at origin remain largely the same, and hunger is still commonplace after the harvest season. One reason may be, while each organization’s projects may, indeed, be growing, the expected benefits of the projects remain within the projects’ limits and are not expanding organically throughout the countryside.
Campesino a Campesino is a development philosophy that began in the early 1980s in Chemaltenango, Guatemala with support from World Neighbors. It focused on farmers teaching and learning from other farmers, rather than various NGOs and agronomists teaching farmers. The results were remarkable. When one farmer learns from another farmer, she or he learns from someone who speaks, lives, and shares common experiences in life and in farming. Instead of feeling helpless and in need of an outside expert, farmers realize that they can solve their own problems. “That farmer is just like me, and if she can do it, then so can I.” The benefits are empowering, and are as much about transforming people as they are about overcoming poverty. Best of all, when farmers discover new techniques that work, they tend to share those techniques with other farmers. It is like a domino effect. The benefits are not held within the confines of an agronomist or NGO, and the benefits tend to spread organically throughout the countryside.
The program was so successful in Guatemala that farmers grew their own food and did not need to work for wealthy landowners any longer. The military was called in to root out Campesino a Campesino from Guatemala. Many leaders were killed and the rest escaped to Honduras where the program further developed.
Campesino a Campesino has returned to Guatemala and, along with several leaders who have returned from Honduras, The Coffee Trust has implemented a Food Sovereignty program following Campesino a Campesino principles in the aldea of Sotzil, which is just north of San Gaspar Chajul in the Ixil region of Guatemala. Family gardens, chicken raising, cover cropping, green composting, effective microorganisms, and other strategies are being shared from local farmer-to-local farmer. The Coffee Trust experiments with local farmers, who in turn, experiment with other farmers and each experience is shared throughout the network.
Sustainability at origin has come a long way since its beginning. However, now it is time to shift out of first gear and into a new dynamic that does more than pander to consumers, but rather, actually honors their interest to help farmers improve their lives.
Who Will Benefit from this Project?
Protected by the rough Cuchamatantes Mountains and a brutally cold, rainy climate, the Ixil people were relatively protected from Western civilization until the early 20th century. Since then, the deeply indigenous Ixil people have suffered from harsh poverty brought on by debilitating respiratory illnesses, water borne diseases, cash-cropping, and Guatemala’s brutal 36-year civil war. After the war, the region was flooded with well-intended, but poorly informed NGOs who saddled the Ixil people with give-away programs, creating a culture of dependency, eroding the inherent strength of the Ixil people, and leaving a sense of victimization and mistrust in their wake.
The Coffee Trust Food Sovereignty Project in the Ixil region reaches 150 women and benefits approximately 750 family members. Most of the women are associated with the fair trade, organic coffee association, Asociacion Chajulense. The program is taking place in the aldea of Sotzil, which is just north of San Gaspar Chajul.
What You Can Do to Help
Your contribution toward The Coffee Trust Food Sovereignty Project will help the families in the aldea of Sotzil in San Gaspar Chajul take control of their own nutritional needs. http://thecoffeetrust.org
However, even more helpful would be for roasters, retailers, and roaster/retailers to engage their customers in the effort.
The Coffee Trust has a Turn-Key Roya Recovery Fundraising Kit that includes: a personalized customer introductory letter, a personalized online fundraising tool including video graphics, a personalized in-store fundraising tool, a personalized news release, and a personalized Quarterly Roya Recovery Report.
It is extremely easy to implement, and we have done all of the work. Coffee businesses need only to implement what we have already created to engage their customers in the effort to help coffee farmers and their families eliminate hunger as a common occurrence at origin.