Throughout the 1990s, the Catholic Diocese of Quetzaltenango maintained an active program offering technical and organizational support to small-scale coffee farmers in western Guatemala as a means of poverty alleviation and economic development. However, despite this support, farmers still lacked the means to bring their product to market, and had to resort to selling to middlemen, “coyotes”, who cut them out of the greater market. It was with the goal of gaining direct access to international buyers that the Asociación de Pequeños Productores de Café Manos Campesinas was conceived in 1996. Organized as a secondary level organization, the cooperative developed direct export channels for a founding group of 6 farmer associations. Today, Manos Campesinas is comprised of 11 cooperative groups across the departments of San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Sololá and Chimaltenango, and it represents over 1,200 farming families.
Manos Campesinas strives to maximize the benefit of its activities by offering the best prices to member farmers, and investing most of the profits in technical support. The association works with a small, core administrative staff as well as strong technical department working closely with farmers on the field.
Manos Campesinas is fiercely independent and proud of its self-sustaining and fiscally-responsible business model. They actively seek to avoid the need for external support from international governments and NGOs, which can often simply lead to more north-south dependency. The association’s 7 strategic values include commitments to social responsibility, quality, sustainability, gender equality, and environmental protection. They aim to be the first choice for customers around the world, not only for their coffee quality, but also for quality of service and positive impact in communities.
The majority of the coffee grown by Manos Campesinas’ members is high-altitude SHB (Strictly Hard Bean), with a diversity of coffee profiles, from the rich chocolatey coffees of San Marcos to the tart berry-like coffees of Sololá and Lake Atitlán.
Cooperative Coffees sources coffee largely from the region of San Marcos, from organizations nestled in the volcanic soils between the Tajomulco and Tacaná volcanos. To this day, we continue to work with APECAFORM (the Maya-Mam Association of Smallholder Organic Coffee Farmers), the first organization to export fair trade organic coffee through Manos Campesinas.
Asociación de Pequeños Productores de Café Manos Campesinas