Over two hundred thousand people were killed in Guatemala’s civil war that lasted between 1960 and 1996. The overwhelming majority of those who lost their lives were indigenous Mayan people in rural areas– up to 83% of all killed. A large number of those were civilians who were victims of the scorched earth campaigns of the Guatemalan military. It truly was an attempt at genocide by all accounts. When visiting coffee country there is no way to avoid the echoes of the war. Many of the places where fighting and indiscriminate massacres were most prevalent are in areas where coffee farming is the main cash-generating activity.
With this background in mind, the Associación Chajulense (ASOCHAJUL) stands out as an organization that has defied odds in order to grow and find success in the coffee industry. The Asociación Chajulense Va’l Vaq Qujol organized during the war in 1988. These 40 coffee farmers of the Chajul Triángulo Ixil region of Quiché were able to get legal recognition in 1990 and began from there. The cooperative has now grown to over 1,500 members over the years and currently has members in 56 different villages in the Chajul, Nebaj, Cotzal and Chiantla regions. These areas were some of the hardest hit during the conflict and the people’s ability to rise above the scars of war to trust each other again and work cooperatively is an incredible achievement.
Chajulense began exporting coffee in the first years of the 90’s. Over time they gained fair trade certification as well as organic certification. The vast majority of their members now produce organically as they have recognized the market and sustainability advantages to this type of production. In 2006 our importing cooperative, Co-op Coffees, purchased one of the first Asociación Chajulense containers of fair trade and organic coffee exported to the US.
At minimum, 10% of profits received by ASOCHAJUL are invested in community projects. To date, the organization has invested in developing other product markets for its members, including production of cardamom, cheese, honey, and handicrafts to diversify income opportunities for its members. ASOCHAJUL developed an eco-lodge called “La Posada.” Run by members and local youth, it is supporting agritourism in the region, bringing additional income to the cooperative, and helping to build relationships with people who come from outside the region.
Chajul’s coffee is delicious featuring notes of almond, honey, vanilla, and nuts. And between now and Sunday 8/8 it will be on sale at 20% off using the coupon code GUAT20 at checkout. Grab a bag and toast this amazing cooperative that has been through so much to bring you their excellent coffee.