December 31, 2012 — A lifelong coffee farmer, Hector Cue Solis is always eager to discuss the business of coffee. Standing amid the massive gears and dryers of the coffee production facility at La Palmera, Guatemala, he sweeps his arm toward the surrounding hillsides and details the production process.
“Most of what we grow is coffee, but we also have bananas, macadamias, and some lychee,” Solis says. “The fruit trees are primarily to shade the coffee plants.”
As beneficiaries of World Renew programming in Guatemala, Solis and the 200 members of the Farmers’ Association of San Jose have been able to lift themselves out of the cycle of poverty, limited education, and poor health that plagues many rural communities in Guatemala.
The first step in breaking that cycle came in 2003. That’s when community members of La Palmera came together to form a farmers’ association with the idea of pooling their money to purchase the 380 acres of farmland they previously had been renting.
With it came the antiquated but functional coffee production facility they use to process and sell their coffee collectively.
“We get a better price working together because we can sell more,” Solis says. “We work in groups, so one group harvests the coffee and the other one works here to process it.”
Despite their efforts, Solis said, community members were still burdened with poor health and poverty. In 2008, working through partner agency Vid y Pompanos (Vine and Branches), World Renew stepped in to help.
“Four years ago we started with health programming for the kids,” Solis says.
Through Vid y Pompanos, World Renew also started adult education classes in the community, helping teach rural farmers to read and write.
With childhood malnutrition widespread in the community, World Renew has trained several community health workers to monitor the monthly growth of young children, educated parents about the need to diversify local diets, and linked the community to organizations that provide free vaccinations.
Through Vid y Pompanos, World Renew also has educated the farmers of La Palmera about 27 core farming principles that help them both increase their yield and preserve and protect the environment.
Solis and his fellow farmers took those lessons to heart. They produce about 6,000 pounds of compost from the coffee pulp each season. “Because of the lessons we have learned, we use it for compost each year,” Solis says.
Perhaps the most positive impact of World Renew’s efforts here, Solis believes, is that of uniting the community.
“Now our group is where our ideas of what we need are born,” he says.