Cooperative: Rio Azul
Guatemala boasts a vibrant constellation of indigenous cultures, languages, and people who are resilient even though politically marginalized and economically segregated for hundreds of years. In Guatemala’s countryside, large wealthy landholders grow coffee, employing laborers that are systematically underpaid with little support from the government. In the 1980s, the government and its paramilitary forces went on a genocidal rampage in the rural areas of the country, killing Mayans and targeting cooperative leadership. In light of this, the tenacity of the Popti' Maya farmers of the Rio Azul Cooperative has been particularly remarkable.
The cooperative now faces the challenge of coping with a devastating coffee rust (roya), a fungus exacerbated by climate warming. Farmers have seen entire plots of coffee destroyed and the government offers no help other than to suggest chemicals which are not approved for certified organic farming. Third Coast Coffee now contributes five cents for every pound of coffee to go to a fund to help organic farmers survive the scourge of coffee rust.