Guatemala - CHAJUL, Asociación Chajulense Va'l Vaq Quyol
The single voice of a cooperative
A civil war raged in Guatemala from 1960 until 1996 - the longest civil war in the history of Latin America. In the Ixil Triangle, where Oikocredit project partner Asociación Chajulense (Chajul) operates today, thousands of civilians were killed, tortured or disappeared.
The victims from this area were predominantly Mayan descendants. Today, the coffee and honey farmers of Chajul - made up largely of Mayan descendants - follow a traditional Mayan maxim: "work the soil without violence".
Chajul is a Guatemalan cooperative of coffee producers, which has marketed Fair Trade, organic coffee since 1989.
Chajul's full name means "One Single Voice" in the Ixil language, and it now has around 1500 members. These members are from 60 different communities in the area and are predominantly coffee producers, though some also produce honey and handicrafts. The primary focus of Chajul is on processing and exporting coffee that is certified as both organic and Fair Trade, and sold under the SHB CHAJULENSE trademark.
Chajul is environmentally focused, promoting a sustainable development model in Ixil communities, ensuring all operations - from production to export - are ecologically safe, economically viable, socially fair and culturally appropriate.
With the revenues from coffee exports, the association supports the surrounding communities with poverty alleviation projects, such as: education, environmental management and improvement of coffee production techniques.
Miguel Tzoy, Chajul's commercialization coordinator, said the association does more than provide a fair, commercial base for the farmers.
"Our associates have also been trained in soil conservation, organic fertilization, waste management, recycling and shade management for coffee crops."
This additional education allows farmers to produce higher quality produce and it gives them skills to sustain their livelihood. The organization prides itself in valuing the participation of women in all of its activities, and offering programmes that reinforce and strengthen the traditional Mayan culture.
As part of the environmental protection activities, the association provides eco-tourism services, offering accommodation at an inn near the Chajul processing plant and a visit to the Cuchumatanes mountain chain.
A long term partnership
Chajul has been an Oikocredit project partner since 1990, when Oikocredit extended a loan of EUR 204,000 (USD 280,000). Since then, Chajul has received two further loans totalling EUR 948,000 (USD 1.3 million), in 2001, 2005 and a recent loan of EUR 73,000 (USD 100,000) in 2009. The loans have been used to add to the working capital for Chajul to expand its local and international commercialization.
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