Byron Jerónimo. How a small-scale Guatemalan farmer is building a future thanks to coffee

La Fao ha aiutato i piccoli produttori di caffè del Guatemala a far fronte ad una patologia che aveva colpito le loro piante.

The Huehuetenango coffee, named after the Guatemalan region, is considered one of the best in the world. It grows at nearly 2,000 metres of altitude at the base of the massive mountain range Sierra de los Cuchumatanes. Its uniqueness is linked to the morphology of the Central American state, which is home to huge mountains and a great variety of climates. Coffee represents one of Guatemala’s main resources and the economy of the Huehuetenango region depends on its exportation.

In 2014 numerous plantations were hit by the coffee rust (Hemileia vastatrix), a fungus that affects coffee leaves, consequently damaging the production. In order to support small-scale coffee producers FAO launched a project to help them overcome this situation.

A migrant and a coffee producer

Byron Jerónimo is part of the coffee producers’ organizations in Huehuetenango supported by FAO, and he managed to start over thanks to coffee. Byron, in fact, was a migrant in the United States but he currently produces coffee and is now able to look to the future with hope.

Growing up in Guatemala

Byron lives in the municipality of Colotenango, in the department of Huehuetenango, far from his family. “My brothers are in the United States. The work they find there is the same type of work we find here. The difference is that there you have to struggle a lot and you are on your own, without any family support,” Byron explains. He believes it’s time that families aren’t forced to split up and that they can stay in Guatemala to contribute to its development. “We have a better quality of life here in Guatemala. Thanks to coffee, and thanks to the optimism of our people in our community, we can grow here.”

Catena montuosa Sierra de los Cuchumatanes in Guatemala
Sierra de los Cuchumatanes is the highest (non volcanic) mountain range in Central America. At its base is one of the most crucial areas for coffee cultivation © Ingimage

The results of the project by FAO

The aim of FAO’s project was contributing to enhancing the resilience of small-scale farmers affected by the coffee rust by teaching them how to face this event. 928 farmers (45 per cent of which are women) and 1,033 families living in Huehuetenango have been included in the project. The United Nations has provided farmers with technical assistance and training activities, promoting sustainable agriculture practices and establishing a weather station in order to assess climate variability. The project has contributed to decreasing the onset of the coffee rust, which passed from 58 to 18 per cent in a year.

Byron’s organic coffee

Byron decided to invest in the production of exclusively organic coffee, thus standing out from other producers and selling his products at a higher cost. “My friends and neighbors enjoy my talks on coffee production that I share with them. They ask me how to do things and I give them my advice. They want to learn just like me.”

Coltivazione del caffè in Guatemala
The Huehuetenango coffee is an ecoregion of Slow Food since 2002. It is home to 200 small farmers growing coffee in a social and environmental sustainable way © Ingimage

Teaching and learning

Byron is happy to share his passion for coffee with his children and teach them new cultivation techniques. “I will continue growing coffee and learning new ways so that my children can learn like me to work with coffee. I wish to continue training and I bought tools, thanks to the new income, to teach my family how the coffee business works”.

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