The Asociación Chajulense Va’l Vaq Qujol is located in the municipality of San Gaspar Chajul, in the region known as the "Ixil Triangle" in the department of Quiché in central Guatemala.
The Ixil Trangle was battered by violence during the decade of the 1970's and through the 1980's as the government mounted its response to guerilla activity in the region. It was in the 1980's that an Italian priest, Rosolino Bianchetti, arrived in Chajul to lead the local parish. Under the tutelage of Bianchetti, who was promoting the principles of Liberation Theology, an initial cohort of 40 farmers founded the asociation in 1988. The organization gained legal status in 1990 and now is comprised of over 1,300 farmers working in 56 communities of the Chajul, Nebaj, Cotzal and Chiantla areas. Since its inception, the primary objective of Asociación Chajulense is to “promote a sustainable development model that is environmentally sound, economically feasible, fair from a social point of view and appropriate from a cultural standpoint."
Coffee is the main crop for the communities in Ixil, where land-holdings tend to be much smaller on average compared to the rest of Guatemala. Other crops include corn and beans that help supplement household diets, but coffee is the only income generator for families. This drove the association to focus on developing its export capacity and establishing direct relationships with buyers and coffee roasters in order to capture the most value for their farmers.
Chajulense exported its first bags of coffee at the end of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s, expanding opportunities through Fair Trade and organic certification obtianed in the mid 00's. In 2006, Cooperative Coffees purchased one of the first Asociación Chajulense containers of fair trade and organic coffee shipped to the US market. Since then we have purchased and roasted nearly two million pounds. In 2013/2014 coffee farmers in Guatemala were ravaged by leaf rust - la roya, and Chajulense lost over 80% of its production. Mobilizing support of allies such as Root Capital and Coffee Trust and buyers such as Equal Exchange and Cooperative Coffees, Asociación Chajulense has greatly recovered production since.
In addition to their coffee sales, the organization has marketed other products such as cardamom, cheese, honey, and handicrafts as a means to diversify their member families’ income. Two succesful ventures have spun off from the Chajulense organization, including the beekeepers cooperative COPICHAJULENSE, R.L. and a women's weaving cooperative Asociación Chajulense de Mujeres Unidas por la Vida.
Social Premium Investment: 2019 Crop YearFair Trade Certification guarantees 20 cents/lb of the price paid a producer organization is set aside as a social premium. How this money is invested is a decision taken collectively by the general assembly of members at the end of each harvest. Below is a break down of how producers in this organization chose to spend their fair trade premium.
Additional IncomeAdditional price payment to producer per quintal of coffee delivered to the cooperative.
InfastructureMaintenance and repair of 105 depulpers, purchasing farm tools and technical assistance. Preventative maintenance of machinery at dry mill.