Coffee and the lives of Guatemalan Campesinos

Guatemala makes up 4.17% of world coffee production with 4.5 million sacks of 60 KG each during the 2000-2002 harvest and provides work for more than 700 000 campesinos who depend on the bean for food, housing, and health and education for their families.

With approximately 2% of the population owning 75% of the arable land in Guatemala, many small coffee producers have to live on small lots of poor quality land.

Some can grow their own corn or bean, the principal products in Guatemala, but the majority only have enough land to build a single room house with a dirt floor.

As a result of the impossibility of cultivating and providing for their families, with the low price of coffee and the layoffs on the large farms, many campesinos have been left without work and for those who live on the farms, have been left without land to cultivate.

Rodolfo Juracan, a Mayan campesino and passionate coordinator of an organic agriculture program in the San Lucas Tolimán region of Sololá, elaborates by saying,

"Coffee is what we grow. All our land has coffee and as a result of the soil conditions and the location, it is one of the only crops that can grow and that is worth the trouble - at this point. So, until we can build an irrigation system and diversify, our only option is to produce coffee."

During this year, the international price has risen from approximately US $0.50 to US $0.60 per pound while coffee producers continue to receive US$0.06 per pound of coffee cherries from the intermediaries.

This is not sufficient to cover the basic cost of living because the harvest in this region only lasts three months. Many of the campesinos are left with no option but to travel to the hot costal climate to work on sugar cane plantations, where they receive poor salaries without adequate living or labour conditions, or in the exploited maquilas of the capital, doing repetitive work with no labour rights.

According to the Guatemalan Episcopal Conference in 2001 there were 77,530 unemployed coffee growers. In 2003 more than 42% of the population is without work.





Comité Campesino del Altiplano

| Colonia Santa Crúz Quixayá | San Lucas Tolimán, Sololá | Guatemala |

| | 502-804-9451 |

Leocadio Juracán | General Coordinator and Responsable for Comercialization