CFCA stories

Sponsorship support helps coffee-growing families

November 29, 2011

Manuel, coffee farmer
Manuel, 50, is a small-scale coffee producer who lives in San
Lucas Toliman, the heart of Guatemala's coffee-producing
region. Of the 22 countries where CFCA works, all but Chile
are major coffee producers.

While December marks the onset of the Christmas season for many around the world, the month also signals another important season: the coffee harvest.

Of the 22 countries where CFCA works, all but Chile are major coffee producers. Most countries harvest coffee from December to March.

The coffee harvest is the time of the year when most of a family's household income is generated. In Guatemala, the world's ninth largest producer of coffee, highways at this time of the year teem with coffee pickers carrying baskets of freshly picked, bright red coffee berries.

Luis Cocon, a CFCA communications liaison in Guatemala, estimates that 60 percent of the 88,000 families served by CFCA in Guatemala depend on coffee for their livelihood.

Because the crop is an important source of income, the harvest is a family affair. The school year in Guatemala and throughout Central America ends in October and resumes in January so children can help their parents pick coffee in November and December, at the peak of the season in the region.

A source of income

Manuel, 50, is a small-scale coffee producer who lives in San Lucas Toliman, the heart of Guatemala's coffee-producing region. Four of his 11 children and one grandson are sponsored through CFCA.

"In November and December of every year, all of my children harvest coffee on a farm and this is an important income for my family," Manuel said.

The farm pays about $4.50 for a quintal (100-pound bag) of harvested coffee. All of Manuel's children manage to pick a quintal a day.

Manuel, coffee farmer and family in CFCA sponsorship program
Four of Manuel's 11 children (eight pictured above) and one
grandson are sponsored through CFCA.

"With the work of our entire family, we are able to save for the electricity and tuition fees for the year," Manuel said.

Sponsorship helps provide a cushion during months of scarce income by helping to pay the educational expenses and medical care of Manuel's children who are sponsored through CFCA's Hope for a Family program. It also provides the family with food provisions.

With sponsorship helping meet these vital needs, Manuel can use more of his income to pay for other household expenses such as home repairs or transportation to school.

In addition to income from picking coffee, Manuel earns a small stipend as a sacristan for the San Lucas Mission church, and he cultivates coffee and corn on a piece of land he owns in the hills above San Lucas.

Unfortunately, heavy rains in the past four years have decreased Manuel's coffee yield.

"I have been able to support my family with the harvest, but in these last three or four years, the crops have been terrible," he said.

With a slight improvement in this year's crop, Manuel hopes to produce 25 to 30 quintals compared to last year's 18 quintals. He will sell his best quality coffee – about seven quintals – to the Juan Ana Coffee Program in San Lucas Toliman.

Helping the small farmer

Top 10 coffee producers

  1. Brazil*
  2. Vietnam
  3. Colombia*
  4. Indonesia
  5. India*
  6. Ethiopia
  7. Honduras*
  8. Peru*
  9. Guatemala*
  10. Mexico*
*CFCA presence
Source: Bloomberg News report

The Juan Ana Coffee Program has been in operation since 1990 and is owned and run by the San Lucas Mission. About 40 percent of the nearly 650 families who sell to Juan Ana are families with children sponsored through CFCA.

"The co-op pays a fair price to farmers for their coffee and does not use a middleman," said Julio Morales, who manages the program. "The program is supporting the small producer. Before, they did not receive a fair deal for their coffee and now we have seen good results."

Juan Ana coffee has been recognized and approved by the National Coffee Association of Guatemala (ANACAFE). The program only buys the best beans, Morales said.

This year, Morales expects the quantity of the harvest will be similar to last year's, but the quality will be better.

"The quality we get from these small producers is very high — well-matured, well-selected and appropriate-sized beans," Morales said.

The Juan Ana Coffee Program pays a minimum of $27 per quintal, more if the market price increases. Last year, it paid $41 per quintal. However, farmers benefit most when prices fall because the co-op guarantees the minimum price.

This is good news for Manuel, who depends on this income to help support his family.

In spite of his challenges and the uncertainty of his crops, Manuel looks hopefully toward the future with strong faith and the support of his family and CFCA sponsorship.

"You don't abandon your crops," he said. "You move forward. You must be hopeful about planting because God says he will make everything new again."

For more information or to order Juan Ana coffee, visit http://www.sanlucasmission.org.

Note: The Juan Ana Coffee Program is not affiliated with CFCA. Proceeds from the sale of Juan Ana coffee benefit the San Lucas Mission.

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