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Unveiling Coffee Co-Changers: Our Journey to Impact.

March 11, 2020

Guatemala is a country divided into 8 coffee regions, all with distinct microclimates, types of soil, sunlight and different altitudes.

Majority of coffee producers use good farming practices that protect the environment and guarantees appropriate work conditions for their workers. Unfortunately the reality outside of most coffee farms is very different.

You can feel the lack of effective recycling infrastructure, that would look after and care for natural beauty and ecological health of the country’s regions. In most cases produced waste is sent outside of the city/town borders and dumped on sides of the roads or burned. We have experienced this while visiting a local school in the town of El Socorro. The school staff, to make a good impression in front of the gringos, have burnt rubbish to get rid of the waste. You could still see smoke from the burnt piles situated near the classrooms where some of the students were playing.

We have experienced an abundance of smoky rubbish piles on our way from Acatenango to Huehuetenango during the evening time. In front of most of houses you could see burning rubbish and waste of all sorts. Often you could see innocently playing kids around those blazing piles inhaling the toxic smoke.

“The implementation of this important project was possible thanks to the involvement of our coffee consumers in Europe and many people in Guatemala.”

— Krzysztof Barabosz

First steps of the Co-Changers project wouldn’t be a success without the engagement of people from Asociación de Reservas Naturales Privadas de Guatemala. They are the ones that supported the project with amazing interactive educational courses focusing on environment and waste management.

Amazing team of young people.

They have presented recycling in a very interesting way with simple and fun explanation of what is bio waste, how important is careful selection and waste separation, plus what diseases can hold inappropriate waste management.

At the end of the course we have prepared a fruit snack for the youngest kids. A very interesting and at the same time terrifying experience was to see that their first automatic reflex right after eating the fruit was throwing the fruit peel on the ground. Unfortunately, this reflex concerns all kind of waste, not just the organic ones. Empty chips bags were flying up in the air quite often.

The whole school experience ended with a great conversation with the school’s principal, who seemed to be very motivated and engaged in the project and its idea. It’s worth mentioning that the school of El Socorro educates 380 students.

Unfortunately, not all the students took part in the recycling course. Three of the teachers decided not to show up for work that Friday (well the weekend started early for them) therefore some of the kids were sent home. Unfortunately, these types of situations hold place quite often, especially on Mondays and Fridays when teachers don’t show up for school because of unknown reasons.

Co-Changers

The recycling bins that have been purchased as part of the project and have also been donated to the coffee farms that supported us throughout this whole year: Finca El Llano, Finca Buenos Aires and Finca El Oregano.They were placed in spaces that are inhabited by the permanent coffee farm workers. In these cases the farm managers arranged meetings with the workers where they have explained the idea of the waste recycling and separation.

Going an extra mile…

Second school, where Asociación de Reservas Naturales Privadas de Guatemala was kind to travel with us and give another set of courses, was El Oregano school in region of Huehuetenango. The school is located about 45 minutes away from the city and holds about 80 students.

Unfortunately lack of proper waste management program is not the only challenge for this particular school. It turned out that the school doesn’t have access to running water and their students lack access to drinking water. The situation becomes even more challenging as the region is known for its high temperatures with everyday sharp sunlight. Water is available in very limited amounts and it is delivered from the Huehuetenango city every 8 days. We have decided to help and purchase at least two 1000L tanks where clean water can be stored with additional filter making it safe to drink.

A brighter looking future.

I guess some of you wonder what’s next?

Waste, both from school and farms will be collected regularly. Jola Czerminska from 88 Graines will supervise the whole project locally, Raul Perez from Finca La Soledad will be responsible for that in Acatenango region and Hector and Diana Ovalle from Finca Buenos Aires in the region of Huehuetenango. Next, all the waste will be delivered to BIOREM Solutiones where all the waste will be either recycled or burned in high temperatures to create energy.

Summing everything up, first of all we would like to thank everyone who believed in Co-Changers project and who support it. This year’s edition “Let’s help to clean Guatemala” is still ongoing and coffee that was created to support that project at Hard Beans is still available both in our store and on coffeedesk platform. The sale from this coffee will assure the support of the project until the end of the year 2020.

Of course we are already thinking ahead with 88 Graines about a vision for year 2021 which we will definitely keep you informed.

Meanwhile a humble well deserved bravo for the “crazy” people that made it happen.

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