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by Anna Canning, Peace Coffee Project Manager

At the end of May, our Queen Bean, Lee, and roasting champ Ivoire were packing up their bags to follow up on 2010 harvest season in Guatemala with our producer partners at Apecaform, Chajul, and Rio Azul. Just as they were preparing to board their plane, a series of disasters hit the region.  The volcano Pacaya exploded, causing cascades of ashes to rain down on surrounding communities. Then only two days later, tropical storm Agatha made landfall, unleashing torrential rains. While the area is accustomed to an annual rainy season, these rains hit hard and fast, with several feet of water falling in a single day. Mudslides, flooding, and washed out bridges in every part of the country; in a surreal twist, a giant (30 story), cylindrical sinkhole opened up in Guatemala City, engulfing an entire office building. Across the country, the damage is being estimated as worse than that sustained in 2005’s hurricane Stan.

What we’ve heard from our producer partners so far is that their communities are dealing with downed bridges and impassable roads. Other areas are coping with landslides that have wiped out a giant swath of coffee fields and farmers livelihoods as well as homes. Fortunately for the farmers, this year’s coffee harvest is safely processed, sold and shipped (we’ve been receiving it here for several months). They’re now looking to the future, repairing the damage and hoping for that future production is not impaired. Michael Sheridan, of our partner Catholic Relief Services’ CAFÉ Livelihoods project, observed: “The storm is a reminder that all the hard work of smallholder farmers to produce high-quality coffees for the discerning specialty market can be swept away overnight.” We wish the best to all those impacted in this storm and will continue to follow updates. Lee and Ivoire have tentatively rescheduled their trip for October and will be reporting then.

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