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Guatemala helps small coffee producers

Innovation / -

In Guatemala è in atto un progetto per aumentare la produzione di caffè.

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (Maeci) and the Guatemalan National Coffee Association (Anacafe) are developing an initiative for protecting small coffee producers. In addition, cooperatives have been selected to diversify earnings.

When we drink coffee, we rarely think about the process behind the result – partly because it involves a lengthy chain of steps that begin faraway and engage a lot of players. The large number of intermediaries is precisely what puts the survival of small coffee producers at risk. This is what happens in Guatemala, in the departments of Coban and Atitlan. The project, realized by Istituto per l’Oltremare (IAO) of Maeci in collaboration with Istituto Italo-Latino Americano (IILA) and Anacafe, develops a plan for improving the socio-economic conditions of these small business owners. The aim is to strengthen traditional farming through the use of new techniques that have a minimal impact on the environment. For the promotion and marketing part, cooperatives of producers have being selected. Another task for these organisations is to find ways of diversifying earnings in order to promote complementary commercial activities. The program has been developed in six other Central American countries as well in order to build up a regional marketing and sales network.
Trade needs to be increased
To improve their socio-economic conditions, small coffee producers receive training that expands their technical skills in farming, organization and business. The aim is ensure a high-quality coffee product so as to attract a niche market of consumers. Selected cooperatives are composed of entrepreneurs in the area who have previous business experience, organizational soundness, and guaranteed quality. Women are able to carve out roles for themselves in these organizations that were once the sole prerogative of men.  Some of their activities include coffee roasting and grinding, as well as complementary activities like cultivating mushrooms and promoting compost production. 
The usefulness of the cooperatives
Two cooperatives have succeeded in exporting 2 thousand sacks of coffee thanks to contacts fostered by the program, bringing a significant increase in revenue. Four small coffee-roasting businesses run by women in the community have also been created. Thanks to the new techniques that have been learned, there have been significant water savings, while by-products from the processing are used to produce compost. Complementary income is generated primarily through sales of mushrooms and ground coffee, with excellent results. In addition, new environmental protection techniques have cut the use of phytosanitary products for the control of rust fungus by 30%.

Five questions for Maeci. Coffee and female freedom in Guatemala

Innovation / -

Il lavoro nelle cooperative del caffè

Cooperatives in the CaféyCaffè project have opened the way for women’s active involvement in operational management. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (Maeci) answers our questions, explaining the vision of the project it is promoting and the possibility of recreating it.

At Expo Milano 2015, visitors will be made aware of the Maeci project thanks to the video screened in Pavilion Zero. What message would you like to convey with your approach to the issue of food security?
Small Central-American family producers of quality coffee can improve their socio-economic situation and reduce the environmental impact of their activities if they join forces and work together. Using traditional cultivation techniques makes their coffee “unique” and suits the rapidly-expanding, demanding “gourmet” niche market. Furthermore, the cultivation of coffee has become a fundamental part of women’s economic development and social emancipation. 
What difficulties have you encountered while working on your project? How did you overcome them?
In the beginning, they had to overcome strong resistance in the environment of cooperatives to the active involvement of women with roles that attribute operational and decisional responsibility as well as the scepticism of the latter, connected to cultural legacies that have never been overcome. Resistance and scepticism have been overcome via confrontation and sharing that allowed criticism to be quashed and flaunting the economic and social advantages that the emancipation of women and the full recognition of their role in society.
Since the submission date, what new results have you achieved?
The results achieved have been consolidated and activities were extended to three new cooperatives, thanks to new financing from the Italian Cooperation granted last December. The real leap in quality which the financing is aiming at is the attempt to contributing to create a virtuous spiral with the increase of individual income and the improvement of quality of life in a collective sense. A part of the income generated by the project will be used to set up cooperatives with women’s interests at heart.  
What developments do you expect in the long term for your idea?
To give a human touch to economic development and to highlight the characteristics and potential of the cooperative model, one needs to consolidate the entrepreneurial validity of the activities started by the women in the cooperatives, trying to increase their independence and decision-making skills.
Do you intend to replicate the project in other countries or in other contexts?
Given the results, the simplicity and modernity of approach and its overwhelming acceptance, the model proposed by the CaféyCaffè project can and should be replicated in other countries for other production chains. It is an example to be showcased (for this reason the opportunity at Expo Milano 2015 is extremely important) and to be suggested for other initiatives in the sphere of enhancement of agro alimentary production chains in developing countries. In this visual, we are already working to create connections between CaféyCaffè and other projects that are just getting started or are being planned in the farming sector in in Latin America.

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