Empowering farmers to create alternative sources of income, improve livelihoods and nutrition

  • Chiapas, Mexico
  • Partner since 2013
  • 660 families

CESMACH is a cooperative of 660 members in Chiapas. The majority are organic coffee farmers living in the El Triunfo Bioreserve buffer zone, an area that protects the nearby and important cloud forest and tropical rainforest ecosystems. 

We first began working with CESMACH in 2013 to identify root causes of seasonal hunger — and available resources to overcome it. We then started strategic planning with co-op staff, members, and their families, to develop a long-term roadmap that could build lasting food security.

Members of CESMACH participating in the food security workshop
CESMACH socios participating in food security workshops.

The Opportunity

Like many coffee communities, the families of CESMACH are confronting the challenges of volatile coffee prices and the increasing effects of climate change.  Most families here suffer two and a half months of food scarcity, every year. Developing a long-term comprehensive plan for food security is fundamental to making these families and communities more resilient.

Together, we targeted beekeeping as a key opportunity to build better livelihoods and nutrition. The cooperative had begun beekeeping activities several years earlier with a grant from Heifer International, and already had 50 members who had learned basic beekeeping skills. 

The Diagnosis

CESMACH wanted to add more beekeepers to increase honey production for export. We committed to providing training, business planning, materials, and capacity-building for the organization that would enable them ramp up and turn beekeeping into a successful business. Along with honey, they could market other bee products like pollen, wax and propolis. Bees would provide an important additional benefit — their pollination services to increase yields of coffee and food crops.

Our current partnership began in 2015 with the goal of growing and professionalizing the co-op’s fledgling beekeeping program. As of 2018, CESMACH’s beekeeping ranks have grown to 85, who all use organic honey production methods. Since the program’s start, annual honey production has increased by 95 percent, to 45,000 pounds.

Cesmach_hives_colorful_hillside_beekeepers
Training for current and new beekeepers empowers producers to develop and strengthen an alternative source of nutrition and income for their families.

Key Strategies

  • Develop a community apiary and communal training
  • Finance new businesses: each beekeeper receives hives and purchases supplies through a short term, low interest loan managed by the co-op
  • Formalize the program as a separate business entity, Real de Triunfo, under the CESMACH umbrella
  • Create monitoring and evaluation systems with training for cooperative staff to track progress and impact.

Our implementing partner is  Ecosur. This ecological college in Chiapas conducts scientific research in southern Mexico, with a special emphasis on environmental, economic, and social problems, and sustainable development. With Ecosur, we conducted surveys of all participants and their families, integrated the information into the design of the program, and have now completed 4 years of technical and business training, for both families and the CESMACH organization. Their beekeepers are successful and more families are waiting to join this new venture. 

Community Highlight: Candido and Seleni Perez

Candido talks with Food 4 Farmers Co-Director Marcela Pino

When Candido first joined Food 4 Farmers’ beekeeping program back in 2015, he didn’t expect much. He and his family faced 4 months of food insecurity, every year, and coffee simply wasn’t enough to take care of their basic needs. But after completing the training program and then going out on his own, he and his wife Seleni saw firsthand how income from honey was transforming their family farm. 

Candido and Seleni now have 36 hives, with enough income from honey to properly invest in their coffee plots, and more than enough left to buy food. This strategy has enabled them to completely eliminate those months of food insecurity, and invest in a small convenience store that Seleni now manages.