Guatemala Rio Azul
|Origin:||Jacaltenango, Huhuetenango, Guatemala|
|Producer:||Rio Azul Cooperative, 220 Members - 2.5 Acre Average Farm Size|
|Varietal(s):||Caturra, Bourbon, Typica Varietals|
|Elevation:||1,450 Meters Above Sea Level|
|Notes:||Raspberry, Dried Fig, Plum|
The Rio Azul cooperative owes its name to a brilliant blue river that flows down from the mountainside where members' coffee farms are perched. It boasts some of the best coffee to come from Guatemala's Huehuetenango region.
Rio Azul is a small co-op located in the mountainous northern region of Guatemala in the small town of Jacaltenango, only 60 kilometers from the border with Mexico. All members of the cooperative are of the Mayan group Jacaltec, also commonly called Pobp’ al Ti’ or Popti. About 40,000 people speak this language, most of them living in the Guatemala department of Huehuetenango with some living just across the Mexican border in Chiapas. After a tumultuous decade under the leadership of a corrupt umbrella cooperative, a few farmers formed their own organization in 2005. Rio Azul started with only a few members, but in the past decade has grown to a membership of 220, led by devoted general manager Ramon Delgado. Most members own small pieces of land that average 1 hectare or less. The steep hills of the region make it difficult to keep the soil from eroding, but Ramon says farmers have learned to prevent erosion and maintain the nutrients in the rich soils by allowing selective ground-covering plants to remain. In addition to coffee, the farmers also grow other crops such as corn, beans, mangos, papayas, melons, and avocados.
Rio Azul employs several agronomists to help farmers improve the quality and yield of their production. Also, some members are trained to conduct outreach within their communities, extending the impact of the agronomists and the co-op’s services. The co-op also provides individual, group, and specialized training to its members on quality improvements, water conservation, and wet milling processes. In addition to training and credit, Rio Azul provides co-op members with subsidized medical services; local, low-cost organic fertilizers; and other infrastructure and education projects that benefit members and their families.