Coffee Connections in Xela
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Drew Ditlefsen, Peace Coffee Courier
In June, Lee, the Queen Bean, and I traveled to Guatemala to attend the Producer/Roaster Exchange organized by Cooperatives Coffees and hosted by Manos Campesinas. This year we were joined by roasters from the northernmost part of Canada and farmer cooperatives from as far south as Peru. This year's theme was microorganisms, organic farming practices, the continued battle with coffee leaf rust, and recovering from the damage already done.
The exchange began in Xela where Manos Campesinas is headquartered. After a day of gathering, cupping, and talking about the hard issues happening in Central America, we visited the Manos Campesinas headquarters. Manos is a unique cooperative that oversees ten producer organizations (including Apecaform) and also operates their own cafe, Cafe Armonia, in Xela. It was very interesting to experience a cooperative that handles their beans from seed to cup, and I have to say the quality of espresso at Cafe Armonia was top notch!
From Xela it was into the field starting at Loma Linda in the San Marcos region. It was here where we were able to see not only the devastation from rust but also thriving organic parcels. We saw the use of organic fertilizers to help combat rust and crop diversification to provide an extra source of income for farmers. This was my first glimpse into fertilizer and microorganism production. In 2014, Cooperative Coffees organized a Producer/Roaster exchange at the Comsa cooperative in Honduras, where Cooperative Coffees and producer cooperatives saw firsthand the potential of microorganisms and foliar sprays to attack rust. Let me tell you that Comsa's hard work and willingness to spread their knowledge was very evident at Loma Linda and every farmer cooperative we visited in the week. Microorganisms in fertilizers are the name of the game and have been a huge tool in battling rust. By using these natural and organic fertilizers it enables the soil to be dominated by good or neutral elements, leaving little to no room for disease to move in.
After a beautiful drive into Panajachel, we hopped on some boat taxis and off to Comite Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA) to continue our discussion on fertilizers as well as government funding. We then took a short trip to San Pedro to visit another coop that is under Manos Campesinas called Federation of Pueblo Mayas (FEDEPMA). This is where we witnessed a practice called “stumping.” With stumping, farmers are able to take old, stressed, or diseased trees and give them a new life. Though it takes a few years for the tree to get back to full production, it has eliminated rust from nearly all trees. Along with stumping, many farmers have been forced to start their parcels anew.
We finished the exchange with closing statements and discussed what we need as farmers, producers, and roasters to thrive in the future. The road to recover from rust and the impacts of a changing climate is a rocky one, but it was inspiring to see the unified front that is facing the challenges together. I returned home proud to be a part of this company and this international effort to make coffee farming a viable livelihood.