Guatemala:
MAYA IXIL

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Growing livelihoods through honey.

Aldea Santa Avelina, Guatemala
Partner since 2014
205 small-scale indigenous farming families

Maya Ixil is a cooperative of 205 coffee farmers in the Ixil Triangle, in the northwestern highlands of Guatemala. The organization was established in 1998 by 28 farmers seeking better access to markets, and employing agro-ecological practices on their farms.

FOOD SECURITY PILLARS ADDRESSED:

4 Pillars of Food Security: Access
4 Pillars of Food Security: Stability

Learn more about the 4 Pillars of Food Security

The Opportunity

When our partnership began in 2014, Maya Ixil had suffered devastating crop losses from La Roya, a fungus that struck in 2012, killing 80% of their coffee shrubs. Maya Ixil was looking for a way to quickly diversify and bolster income in their members’ communities.

Though farmers here produce highly sought after organic coffee, their farms are very small – less than one hectare — limiting the amount of coffee grown, and income earned. Average net income from coffee provides far less than the Global Poverty Line of $1.90 per person per day. The most difficult months are June through October, when that income runs out and families are unable to cover basic food needs.

To address these chronic shortcomings, Maya Ixil tried to diversify income through beekeeping, but with little technical support or training in basic beekeeping, their hives received little attention or maintenance, and their bee colonies were lost.

The Diagnosis

Beekeeping was identified as a strategy that had not been sufficiently supported due to a lack of resources. Because beekeeping generates income for coffee-farming families from honey sales, it fits well into the landscape of the farm. Beekeeping promotes environmental resiliency, contributes to food security and livelihoods, and requires a modest investment of time – coffee farmers usually work weekends as beekeepers. It can serve as an effective safety net for families affected by coffee rust, low coffee prices, and high food costs.

Strategies

At the start of our partnership, which ran from 2014 – 2016, we worked with Maya Ixil to establish two community “apiary schools,” and trained 50 coffee farmers. The first honey harvest in 2015 increased income by 23% on average. Funding was provided by Root Capital, a leader in global social lending.

  • We trained farmers in commercial beekeeping techniques, while training the co-op’s beekeeping promoter in best practices, hive management, and troubleshooting.
  • We worked with each beekeeper to help them develop a business plan reflecting their individual economic situation and capacity.
  • We’ve provided support and resources to help Maya Ixil become organic-certified for honey, which brings a higher price.
  • As the beekeepers ramp up honey production, we helped them access local and international markets, and strengthen their brand.

In 2016, we brought in Ecosur, an ecological research college based in Chiapas, Mexico, to help Maya Ixil grow and professionalize their beekeeping venture. Maya Ixil is now a licensed exporter of honey, and has access to international markets. They’ve increased honey production by 200% since 2016, and honey is now the second highest source of income, after coffee.

Domingo de la Cruz Toma

COMMUNITY HIGHLIGHT

Domingo de la Cruz Toma

Domingo is Maya Ixil’s Apicultural Technician and beekeeping specialist. He monitors each apiary, and supports beekeepers through both group training and one-on-one visits to farms. Domingo ensures that hives are productive and healthy, and are delivering high quality honey.

Domingo has worked at Maya Ixil since 2015 and knows the community well. His stalwart support and enthusiasm for this venture has earned him the trust of the communities he serves, and provided much-needed professional experience in apiculture.

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