IAC Donates $6K to Coffee Producer Apiary Training

Domingo de la Cruz Toma inspects a beehive.

“Bees benefit us because when they are out foraging, going from bloom to bloom, they improve the quality of everything that grows on our farms,” says Domingo de la Cruz Toma, a coffee producer and beekeeper who leads the apiary school at the Maya Ixil cooperative in El Quiché, Guatemala.

(Ixil Avelina Fair Trade Organic, the green coffee from the farm has just arrived, and with its sweet nectarine, nougat and milk chocolate notes, it’s easy to believe the bees gave it their special touch!)

In 2010, Don Domingo and a handful of others in the cooperative decided to learn to manage bees. He had no prior information and lacked proper equipment; but he understood that beekeeping could benefit his family, and soon he was managing two hives of his own.

“Beekeeping can improve families’ nutrition, and they provide an opportunity to build businesses that give families an alternative income to coffee,” he explained.

Initially, Don Domingo brought whatever honey he could harvest to his local market. But eventually, the cooperative was able to connect him and the other beekeepers to a company that began buying their honey at better prices than they could earn in the market.

At the point that Food 4 Farmers, a nonprofit dedicated to helping coffee communities end food insecurity, learned about the Maya Ixil project, seven Maya Ixil members were beekeeping, but only one had received any real training. Recognizing that bees stimulate coffee plants, provide a rich source of nutrition and help to create additional income for coffee families, Food 4 Farmers built out a project in support of the co-op that included establishing two community-teaching apiaries with 20 hives each; 50 coffee producers were trained and ultimately 43 of them continued on.

The first honey was harvested in December 2015. According to the Food 4 Farmers site, “about 4,800 pounds [was] processed through nearby beekeeping cooperative COPIASURO, [and] beekeepers saw their income jump by 23 percent.”

Don Domingo, who learned to grow coffee from his father on rented land, is now a father of 7 with three parcels of land and 16 hives of his own. He’s also training other co-op members in beekeeping and has developed a map of Maya Ixil apiaries in the region.

His plans for the future include bringing more farmers into the beekeeping program and growing his own business to a size that will enable him to sell his honey beyond Guatemala.

“If we can increase participation and the volume of honey we produce, we can reach international markets with a high-quality product, earn good prices and improve the lives of families,” he explained. “It’s important to keep practicing what we’ve learned through Food 4 Farmers and everyone who has trained us...”

InterAmerican Senior Vice President Kayd Whalen, as a member of the Food 4 Farmers board, has a clear view of the program’s efforts and impact. So it was our real pleasure this year to donate $6,000 to the project, in direct support of Don Domingo and his training efforts.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to work and serve Maya Ixil,” said Don Domingo. “My commitment doesn’t stop with my work, but it is a small seed to hopefully grow the sustainability of this work for future generations.” •


Photo credit: Julia Luckett Photography.

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