Strategies for International Development (SID) carries out two projects in Guatemala: one in Northern Chimaltenango and the other in Alta Verapaz.

Northern Chimaltenango

SID has been helping 4,400 coffee-growing families in 69 communities in Northern Chimaltenango to increase their income and make the full transition to successful commercial farming.

In April 2015, we graduated 1,450 families in 26 communities from the project because they had mastered basic business practices and the farming practices for reclaiming land, controlling coffee leaf rust, increasing productivity, and husking coffee. Also, they had successfully controlled the deadly attack of coffee leaf rust that caused a dramatic drop in their productivity, coffee husking, and income. In the harvest ending in March 2015, they returned their productivity from a low of 10.57 quintals per 1/4 acre to 15 quintals, their husking to 30% of the harvest, and their annual income to nearly a $1,000 a year from coffee.

In April 2016, SID graduated another 1,480 families and 22 communities from the project because they too had mastered the business practices and the farming practices that reclaim and increase productivity, husking, price, and income. Also, they had increased their productivity to more than 15 quintals per 1/4 hectare, their husking to more than 35%, and their income to more than $1,000 a year from coffee. SID is currently helping the remaining 1,270 farm families and 21 communities to (1) master their adoption of business practices, (2) fully adopt practices that prevent leaf rust, (3) adopt practices that increase productivity, and (4) increase husking of their coffee. They will graduate from the project in April 2017.

 Alta Verapaz, Coffee Farmers in the Poorest Region of Guatemala

Alta Verapaz is the poorest region in Guatemala; 93% of the population is Mayan; and all the small coffee farmers are Mayan.  Alta Verapaz also has more coffee farmers and more farmers who don't husk their coffee than any other department in Guatemala.  The 2008 census counted 75,575 coffee-producing families in Alta Verapaz or 24.6% of the national total of 307,626.  Anacafé, Guatemala's National Association of Coffee Producers, estimates that only 90,000 of the 307,626 coffee farmers husk their coffee, and SID estimates that at least 57,000 of the 75,575 coffee farmers in Alta Verapaz do not husk their coffee.

In September, SID began working in 22 communities of the Municipality of Tamahú, one of the poorest in Alta Verapaz, with over 800 coffee-farming families.  The municipality consists of two large, long mountainsides that face each other, separated by a narrow river and a road that runs between them. 

The situation in Tamahu was worse than we originally thought.  When the coffee leaf rust struck, farmers in Tamahu did not receive any assistance and many farmers abandoned their coffee plots and went to work in Honduras.  The great majority have returned to the area, but their coffee plantations were completely destroyed and had to start from zero.  This has been a great challenge.  However, Tamahu represents an even greater opportunity for helping poor farmers graduate from poverty than many other areas of Alta Verapaz, and it is an excellent place to commence our work.

SID began helping the coffee farmers to adopt basic business practices, control leaf rust, renovate their coffee plots, and increase productivity and husking.  The increase in productivity and income was small but significant.  Farmers in Tamahu have an average of 12 cuerdas of 21 meters by 21 meters (.53 hectares) for coffee.  Because of the leaf rust, they had a baseline of 3 cuerdas in production and 3 quintals per cuerda.  They were able to add another cuerda in production, increase productivity from 3 to 5 quintals per cuerda, and more than double their income.  Husking was so small that it was difficult to measure.  Farmers were able to increase their income from an average of $166 to $368 a year from coffee.