The families of coffee farmers in Guatemala depend directly on the profits generated by the sale of coffee beans. However, due to the fall of global coffee prices, families have seen their incomes fall and their diets worsen. Additionally, women’s work in the coffee value chain has been marginalized. Through the USAID-funded Feed the Future initiative—NCBA CLUSA’s Coffee Value Chains project—the United States government has contributed to the generation of alternative incomes, the diversification of families’ diets, and the economic empowerment of women through the provision of seed capital for egg and poultry production, as well as technical assistance and training aimed at women and men on gender-related, administrative, technical, and environmental topics.
Merly Efigenia Rodriguez Lopez is the mother of three daughters and the wife of a coffee farmer from the Tajumuco cooperative, located in the municipality of Unión Cantinil, department of Huehuetenango. She was chosen to serve as an agricultural community worker and has learned how to vaccinate, feed and take care of laying hens and fattening chickens. She says that in 2019 she received 30 laying hens as seed capital. After three months she invested a total of US $800 of her own funds and credit to purchase 100 additional hens. She stated, “I cannot express my happiness in this moment. Now that I have my business, it has opened doors and allowed me to help my people. I have now made a profit with my egg sales. She attributes her success to her involvement in the project, “I did not expect that I would have my own farm with this project.”
Ms. Rodriguez produces over 100 eggs daily, earning around US $13 day. “At first I sold eggs to the day laborers that work on the coffee plantation, then to neighbors, then local stores and now to schools.” Ms. Rodriguez also sells hens to members of her community and has received support and coaching from NCBA CLUSA staff to contact suppliers and buy hens at a reasonable price with the goal of increasing her profit margins. “I have already sold 500 hens, which I vaccinated and medicated to ensure that they wouldn’t get sick.”
Now that she is facing challenges with COVID, it has helped her to have eggs to sell. “My savings bank members and neighbors look for me and they ask me for [poultry] concentrate and hens, or they ask me to vaccinate and administer medicine to their hens. I am very happy. My husband supports me, and he also wants to invest [in my business] and work with me in this.
With Ms. Rodriguez’s perseverance, as demonstrated through her role as an agriculture community worker, she has undertaken her own business venture within the poultry value chains, selling to her neighbors and savings bank members so that they too can raise chickens and produce egg and meat for the community.