Guatemala-Project Location

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Guatemala.Project.Location.1Strategies for International Development's (SID's) projects are located in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. SID works in Northern Chimaltenango, the first of the Highland departments to the west of Guatemala City, the capital. We also work in Alta Verapaz, the Highland department to the north of the capital.

The two project areas are similar. The farmers have small plots of land; they grow corn and beans for home consumption; and coffee is the ideal cash crop. Both areas are 1,300 to 1,700 meters (a mile) above sea level, and farmers in both areas grow coffee for their income. Also, the coffee produced at these high altitudes is classified as "strictly hard" coffee, and exporters pay approximately 50% more for this type of coffee than they pay for the softer coffees produced at lower altitudes.

However, the farmers earn only a small portion of what they could earn from their coffee. They have low productivity, and they need to improve the shading, pruning, and fertilizing of their trees in order to increase their production and income. Also, they don't husk their coffee. They sell it to local buyers called "coyotes" rather than husk it and sell it directly to exporters for a higher price.

Coffee plots at high altitudes are usually free of the plant diseases that infect coffee trees at lower altitudes. But in 2012 a major outbreak of coffee leaf rust swept through Central America, infecting coffee trees in Northern Chimaltenango and Alta Verapaz as well as those at lower altitudes. The leaf rust is a fungus that attaches itself to the underside of the leaves of the coffee trees and reduces photosynthesis, the growth of the leaves, and the coffee fruit. As a result, farmers need to spray their trees with copper sulfate and lime to protect them against leaf rust.

Dona Benita Picking CoffeeThe farmers live and farm on mountainsides, and they need to terrace their land to protect it from erosion. They use firewood for cooking, and they need to re-plant trees they cut to prevent mudslides during years of heavy rain.

The farmers in Northern Chimaltenango belong to the Kaq'chiquel community of Mayans, and the farmers in Alta Verapaz belong to the Q'eqchi and Poqomchi communities of Mayans.