Maya Ixil is a coffee cooperative in Nebaj, part of Guatemala’s Ixil triangle. The organization was established in 1998 with 28 members, and now has 182 coffee producers. Maya Ixil coffee is certified organic (BCS, OKO), and is fair-trade certified (FLO-CERT).
As with all of our projects, we started this one by establishing a relationship with the community that reflects our belief that we are working for the cooperative. All partners — the community, a local implementation organization, and Root Capital, the funder — have complementary principles and goals, and together we work to create long-term positive impact for Maya Ixil producers and their families.
During the course of the project, we worked with CADIA (Training in Apiculture Development and Innovation), an organization that specializes in sustainable agriculture in Mexico and Central America. Root Capital is a leader in the nonprofit social investment arena, providing funds and training to grow rural prosperity in poor, environmentally vulnerable places.
Through our process, Maya Ixil producers identified beekeeping as a key strategy for their community. Seven Maya Ixil producers were already engaged in beekeeping, but only one had received any technical support or training in basic beekeeping. As a result, their hives received little attention and maintenance, and bee colonies were lost. They were using conventional production methods, which did not align with their focus on organic coffee production. These coffee producers wanted to pursue beekeeping for supplemental income, but didn’t have the resources to do so. The cooperative needed support to improve and amplify this strategy to improve producers’ livelihoods.
Beekeeping generates income for families, complements agriculture, and promotes environmental resiliency. Beekeeping is a valuable strategy that benefits the environment, contributes to pollination and flowering of coffee plants, shade trees, crops, and native plants within a 3 kilometer radius of the apiary.
Beekeeping does not require a significant time investment, and can serve as an important support for coffee producers affected by coffee rust and other production challenges. Pollination by bees stimulates coffee plants, and it’s been reported that this can augment production by more than 30%.Honey is a rich source of nutrition, especially for families in rural areas, and contributes to food security. Beekeeping is an activity that can be led by men and women equally.
Phase One (2013-2015): Training
Participatory Community Diagnostic completed with 130 producers
All our projects begin with a Participatory Community Diagnostic. This diagnostic identifies information about the level of food insecurity, available resources, regional, social, and geographic characteristics, and the primary challenges that the community faces as they work to achieve healthy and sustainable livelihoods. The diagnostic is used to create a base line and to identify the time line of the project, reference points, and to eventually evaluate the results of the project.
Established 2 experimental apiaries with 20 hives each
Maya Ixil already had established 2 experimental apiaries.
Participation from 50 trained producers.
Training module implemented and validated. Training modules are 5 days each and include:
• Establishing nucs (small bee colonies) – April 2014
• Basic Beekeeping – May 2014
• Best Practices – July 2014
• Diversification and Commercialization of Products Derived from the Hive – December 2014
• Rearing Queen Bees – April 2015
Future Activities: approximately 4,800 pounds of honey committed and commercialized through the local beekeeping cooperative, COPIASURO. We’ll continue to evaluate the training module and adjust implementation.
From Pilot Project to Family Enterprise
A beekeeping specialist visits each pilot apiary two times a week to give instructions on hive maintenance to the producers in training. At the end of the first year of training and the harvest, the honey produced will be sold through Maya Ixil. In the second year, and with the Internal Credit System fund, Maya Ixil will give low interest loans to producers to acquire between 3-5 hives each and necessary materials. The apiaries are productive within the first year of installation and are a short-term recoverable investment.
At the end of the first year, participants will be trained to:
• Evaluate the health and economic impact of their apiary
• Assess the influence of difference hive maintenance strategies
• Judge the safety of beekeeping products and tools
Phase 2 (2015-2016): Implement Individual Apiaries
Each producer will make an investment plan according to their economic situation. Maya Ixil will support each trained producer in establishing at least 10 hives each and will facilitate financing through their Internal Credit System. Root Capital will serve as Financial Advisor for the Internal Credit System to ensure that financial plans are effective and will also provide advice for efficient analysis of credit applications. Loans will have 2-3 year terms.
To guarantee the monitoring of the apiaries, a trained tecnico will support beekeepers to ensure good performance and high quality honey according to COPIASURO’s established specifications.
Because processing equipment is expensive, the project proposes that equipment is purchased between 5 beekeepers, who will take turns using it during the harvest. This will lower their investment, encourage teamwork, and strengthen their beekeeping knowledge.