I had a rest day in Nebaj after my ‘rustic’ experience in Chajul. I appreciated the home comforts of a good bed and wifi 🙂
The Nebaj area, part of the Cuchumatanes moutain range, has some spectacular hiking opportunities and is a draw for those looking to get some good hiking away from the tourist crowds. I opted for a fairly easy hike along the river valley and it was on my way back on the edge of town that I saw an office for the coffee Association ADIPCASAL. It being Saturday I expected no one to be around but I thought I’d check just in case. And my luck was in, although Huber’s luck certainly wasn’t, as I interrupted his watching his favourite football team, Barcelona play Getafe. Although it was near the end of the game and Barcelona were losing (they lost), he gave me a quick tour and insight into the Assocation and its related co-operative, CoveNorte.
ADIPCASAL (Assocation of Integrated Development of Coffee Producers) is a 100% organic, Fair Trade association, certified by IMO (Institute of Market Ecology; a slightly newer worldwide certifying organisation. The most common certifier is Fairtrade Labelling Organisation [FLO]). It has existed since 2002. CoveNorte was set up in 2010 as a co-operative so that the coffee could be exported (as organic) through the FLO system, giving them more flexibility. ADIPCASAL has around 100 members and CoveNorte 75, so even together they are small organisations. Members are scattered throughout the Ixil and Quiche regions, some more than 90 km away (which is a very long way when it’s a dirt road!).
Exports from the Assocation and co-op are co-ordinated through FEDECOCAGUA (a national Guatemalan federation of small producers). The volumes exported are small; a little over 2,000 bags of green coffee per year (each bag holding 45 kg). Coffee is exported to Europe and USA.
Huber gave me the ‘tour’ of the facilities. It was the most basic I’d seen yet. Effectively just two rooms – the office, and the ‘warehouse’. Because of the remoteness and distance of the producers from Nebaj, the washing and drying of coffee is done within the communities. Once bagged, they are delivered to the office in Nebaj. But even then, the difficulty of getting to Nebaj means the producers club together to hire a 4×4 to bring the coffee here. Huber himself visits the producers by motorbike. As is common with other co-ops I’ve visited, the Assocation provides credit to producers to help them produce their coffee. It being a small co-op there is limited opportunity for other product development, but some women create and sell coffee sacks that are used by Association producers.
In future, they hope to gain more members and build a newer warehouse on the existing premises. Even Huber himself is not an employee of the Assocation; he is contracted to them from the FEDECOCAGUA organisation. There are only two other staff!