Posts Tagged With: coffee

Pilot Project

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Overlooking the village of Muyja with the new coffee plants in the foreground.

As I drove out to the small village of Muyja, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Federico had called me a couple days earlier and said the community would really like to invite me right away. I hadn’t visited this place in about six months and the urgency of the request made me nervous. We had been praying for this village especially since it was a a pilot program for growing coffee. We provided a business loan for this community and I thought they probably wanted to ask for an extension on the loan since the coffee trees would be too young yet to get a good harvest. In the Spring of 2016, we had planted coffee with them and helped them buy the fertilizer they needed.

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Alvina showing her coffee trees.

A K’ekchi’ woman named Alvina greeted Federico and me; she was eager to show us the coffee trees. I was amazed to see strong healthy trees with unblemished leaves shimmering in the sunlight. Not only did the trees look healthy, but they were also heavy with fruit. Even though it usually takes about 3 years to get to a full harvest, these trees that were seedlings a year ago were already producing coffee.

I work with Federico in the Red Paz organization. This organization works with several villages in Alta Verapaz each year. In the first year they teach peace and reconciliation from a Biblical standpoint, helping the people in the village learn to work together and resolve conflict. In the second year they teach health and nutrition. In this phase the community works together to grow an organic garden of vegetables that provides nutrients that are often lacking in the local diet. Following the success of accomplishing these together, the community is ready to begin working together in the business of coffee. I believe God called us here to help and encourage the K’ekchi’ people as they try to escape the trap of poverty.

Federico and I returned from our tour of the coffee trees to meet together in the house of Angustia. We sat together on wooden benches on a dirt floor with coffee in hand and waited for the others in the community to arrive. Not only was everyone ready to make the first payment that we all agreed on, but some paid their entire balance!

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Ted with Federico, Alvina, and Carlos.

We are planning to present the Global Disciples business training early next year. I received the materials and training myself this summer and I am looking forward to the tremendous impact I’m sure it will make with the people in the villages.

It is encouraging to see people who have felt the weight of oppression for so many years finally able to make a difference in their lives. Their excitement is contagious as we celebrate the literal fruit of our labor. Continue to pray for us as we seek God’s will for the K’ekchi’ people.

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Guatemala Day 4: More Coffee

20130930_121020 20130930_09004220130928_152638Monday Wilmar road a bus in from his village and joined us for the day. In the morning, Galen had to take his car to the garage for a small fix before driving us back to the city and then on to Honduras the next day. So we dropped the car off and walked around Cobán. First we visited a local coffee shop so Ted could try some fresh roasted local coffee. I tried a hot chocolate, which they make there with ground cacao beans, water, and sugar–no milk (though that can be added at additional cost). We then wandered back through the markets to get the car. With Wilmar as our personal shopping assistant, we were able to pick up several gifts and other things. The markets are quite an experience with live turkeys and chickens, food of all shapes and colors, toys, skirts, fabric, tortillas, and all sorts of smells.
IMG_20130930_163316620 IMG_20130930_164027479 IMG_20130930_164022754After lunch and a short rest at the house, we visited the Mennonite Church offices in Carcha. There we were introduced to the president and spoke briefly about our desire and calling to come and help. We then met another pastor/coffee farmer named Francisco who was in town for a meeting and drove back to his coffee farm. He is a very progressive farmer who has worked to bring people together to improve their situation. He recently tried a new spray for his coffee crop to combat the fungus and that day was the first time he had been to the field since he had sprayed it to see if it had any effect. His fields are a half hour from his house driving on very rocky roads; he usually has to walk to them–at least an hour one way. His fields are on a steep hill that we had quite a climb to get to, but the spray appeared to have been quite effective and the bushes were covered with lots and lots of green cherries and the leaves were nice and green. Harvest seasons is November through January, so by February, we will know if he has found a workable solution! Ted enjoyed talking with Francisco about coffee and the potential for bringing farmers together to process it themselves and export it. Even if they can get it processed themselves, there are several levels of corruption that will need to be overcome.
We ended the day with dinner at a nice area restaurant with another missionary couple in the area (non-Mennonite).

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Guatemala Day 3: Meeting the Kekchi

IMG_20130929_113804657_HDRIMG_20130929_111403018Sunday we attended a Kekchi church out in the country. Phyllis shared with me a Kekchi skirt and shirt she had been given, so I was even able to dress the part. Rosebud was too, as we had purchased a shirt for her from the weaving co-op we visited the previous day. (The Kekchi ladies’ skirts consist of EIGHT YARDS of fabric and a drawstring. It is quite a feat to deal with all that fabric to put the skirt on, let alone wear it around all day!) We drove 45 minutes or so through more gorgeous land and then had to hike 10-15 minutes up a narrow trail to the church. The Kekchi have learned from their Latino neighbors, that louder music is better, so they have pretty big speakers in their churches. As each person enters the church (which is just one large room) they go to the front or their seat and kneel to pray before doing anything else. The service is similar to ours with singing and announcements and prayer and a message. All visitors are invited up to give a welcome. Since the Groffs had prepared us for this, we were ready. 🙂 Ted also played and sang a short song for them, and Galen was asked to give the message in Kekchi (which he had also been prepared for). Rosebud was again quite an attraction with the children, and she enjoyed interacting with them too.

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IMG_20130930_131627 After the service, we were introduced to the piano player, Wilmar. He spent a year in the United States a year ago with MCC and is now back with his family and working to discern what to do next. Since he speaks English, Spanish, and Kekchi he was an immense help to us during our trip. We had lunch with Wilmar’s family. His father, Felipe, is a relatively wealthy farmer in the area who has quite a bit of coffee. Following our lunch of Caldo (a traditional Guatemala soup with chicken, güisquil, and other vegetables) and, of course, corn tortillas, the men gathered to discuss coffee and roya and what opportunities there were that Ted could assist with. On our way back to our car, we looked at Felipe’s crops. He has quite a bit of coffee (with various effects from the roya) cardamom, and 28 varieties of fruit. We also stopped and visited a nearby coffee beneficio (processing plant) that has been out of use for about 5 years.IMG_20130929_113914972 IMG_20130929_093850068 IMG_20130929_124634190_HDR IMG_20130929_120952614 20130929_134320 20130929_142918

Back at the Groffs’, we spent some time talking about what we’d seen so far and what we felt our mission would be and our vision. We ended that evening with a great time of prayer together.

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Guatemala Day 2: Playing Tourist

zipSaturday we played tourists for a bit in the morning, visiting a local coffee plantation that gives tours and has a zip line course (7 lines) through their coffee fields. We learned about the process of growing and harvesting coffee as well as a bit of the history of coffee growing in that area of Guatemala. We also saw first-hand how devastating the roya fungus has been for the farmers. The particular plantation that we were at, which is a cooperative of over 100 small farmers, had cut down half of their coffee crops in an effort to eliminate the disease. They are planting green beans and broccoli in place of it in some areas. Roya fungus has a progressive effect on the plants, beginning by turning the leaves yellow and keeping the berries from ripening, and ending with completely destroying the plant and leaving only a stick tree behind. At the end we saw their beneficio, or processing plant, for turning the cherries into dry, green beans for shipping.IMG_20130928_130808731IMG_20130928_131713598_HDR IMG_20130928_132214090
After our tour, we visited the street market in Cobán. We went through quickly trying to see and absorb so much. The local people were amused at the site of Rosebud with her fair hair and blue eyes. One group of girls even asked to take her picture with their cell phone. 🙂  (The cell network has been great for the people in rural Guatemala–the hope of getting telephone line out to the villages and homes would never happen, but with cell phones, they can now have much better communication.)IMG_20130928_145313607 IMG_20130930_104150311 IMG_20130928_142549176
Later that day we visited a women’s weaving co-op that had been started by a former missionary to help women earn an income for their families. They had many gorgeous cloths and bags and shirts there. The weaving is beautiful.IMG_20130928_170227039

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Guatemala Day 1: First Glimpse

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Well, we are back from an amazing journey into another time and place. Ted, Rosebud, and I spent five days seeing and learning as much as we could about Guatemala and the Kekchi people and their way of living. We are still quite overwhelmed by everything we experienced. I don’t think I can put much into words right now, so I will just give a brief overview of what we did each day. After typing all this up, I decided to split it up into one post per day. Otherwise, it is a VERY long post.

IMG_20130927_072753484_HDRFriday we got up at 3am EST and headed for the airport. Our flight left on time and after a brief layover in Atlanta, we found ourselves in Guatemala 8 hours later, with Rosebud having slept all but one hour of flight time! There we met Galen and Phyllis Groff, a wonderful couple who has been serving as missionaries with the Kekchi people for over 20 years. They drove us on a five hour drive through an amazing countryside that we couldn’t get enough of! We stopped after a bit for an authentic Guatemalan meal at a roadside restaurant. The roads are full of curves and drop-offs and speed bumps (their way of “enforcing” speed limits) and people walking along sometimes carrying huge loads on their heads. We arrived at their house in Carcha in the early evening and crashed shortly after, as we had been up since 1am local time. Their house is located near the edge of town and is surrounded by hills with houses and corn fields. Most families have a small flock of chickens (and a rooster) that wanders around their yard free range, and there are dogs everywhere.

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Coffee Beans

Coffee Beans

The coffee bean at different stages during its processing. Left to right, top to bottom: A cherry fresh off the bush, a cherry cut in half to see the two seeds, the seeds once they’ve been through the wet mill to remove the flesh (must happen within 24 hours of picking), the green beans after having been dried (this is a stable state and how they are shipped), the roasted beans.

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