Organic Guatemala Huehuetenango 'San Pedro Necta'

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Cup notes: bright, sweet tart, tropical-cherry, milk chocolate

A steep road ascends the side of El Tapón Mountain in Guatemala’s remote Huehuetenango Department, rising finally to the mid-sized town of San Pedro Necta. San Pedro Necta municipality, which lies across the verdant hills surrounding the town centre, is characterized by small homesteads, and coffee is the primary means of income for most people living here. The town lies at the heart of the community, and the growers contributing to this community lot live mostly in its vicinity.

On this side of the mountain, away from the larger estates to the West, agriculture is mostly certified organic, as the surrounding community has chosen sustainable production practices as one of the ways to differentiate themselves and to remain competitive in this famous coffee-producing region. These aims are supported by the local organization, the Association of Integrated Development of San Pedro Necta (ASODESI), which serves around 140 members from the surrounding area. ASODESI provides a variety of services to its members and the wider community, from health services and education through to access to agricultural inputs. The majority of its members are Indigenous Mam-Maya, a historically marginalised group in Guatemala. ASODESI represents their members’ interests and makes sure to act as a mouthpiece for them in the global marketplace.

Currently, ASODESI members farm around 250 hectares, total, with an annual exportable production of 10 containers of green coffee a year. The predominant varieties grown by members are Bourbon, Pache and Caturra. San Pedro Necta is known to be one of the premier coffee producing zones in Huehuetenango. It features many microclimates and high altitudes ranging from 1,400 to 1,800 metres above sea level.

In recent years, sustainable production practices have become increasingly difficult to pursue, as many of the members of ASODESI are adapting to the changing climate cycles of the region, in which the intense rainy season is increasingly highly variable. When the rain comes too late, it can create a delay in the maturation process of cherries that have already withstood a long period of stress during the hot summer typical of the area. For this reason protecting shade and soil biodiversity has become critical. Additionally, the association has provided training in seedling preparation, including the application of organic fertilisers such as mulch, compost and manure. These fertilisers help create a foundation for healthy, productive and long-term organic agriculture.

ASODESI not only helps with technical assistance in the field but also provides social services to members. The Association’s concept of ‘sustainability’ is very much based in both a commitment to the protection of the environment and the equal distribution of social and financial profits amongst all members. Overall, the goal is to contribute to their members’ well-being while supporting the municipality and wider Department with a strong, anti-poverty strategy.