A BCI LATAM-Based Staff Member Shares His Story
Like most mornings, I’m settling into my workday with a fresh cup of our fair trade coffee that was produced by our Guatemala Ixil Mayan farmers. While I relish in its delicious flavour, I’m taking calls from potential partners from governments, NGOs, CSR, or philanthropists who want to engage our services in their regions of endearment.
Since the beginning of our coffee program, Guatemalan farmers have been making on average 30% more than the year before. Five harvests later, they will be earning x2.4 more than when we started. It makes me savour drinking these morning cups all the more.
In addition, we’re anticipating the grand opening of our first-ever permanent Guatemalan training centre. It will allow us to train at least 16 women at a time locally while housing up to 8 staff, guests and volunteers. It boasts 4 hectares of land, 3 of which are forested. In 2022, we will have Coffee Livelihood Workshops, Enriche and Women Wellness and Solar training. The Enriche Women Prosper curriculum instills knowledge of women’s rights, financial and digital literacy, sexual and reproductive health, and more.
In large thanks to our LATAM coordinator, Rodrigo Paris, 20 women from Guatemala were given the inaugural scholarships for training. The coordinator then moved to the country to see the piloting of the training program in 2016. Today, Mr. Paris leads as our Barefoot College International CEO for the global organization. He will also be helping to manage the new training centre.
Our Progress in Guatemala
On behalf of Barefoot College International, I co-facilitate a Women-Led Coffee Cooperative in Guatemala. Since 2019, Barbara Perez and I have supported the women farmers in fulfilling their dreams and aspirations. We’re witnessing the Ixil Mayan civilization take back its dignity and build a peaceful and healthy society.
I spend a lot of time on messaging apps, communicating directly with farmers, and getting daily updates on their harvest, the market price for their yields, climate, or preparations for the next workshop. Soon I will be studying the results of our ecological assessments for agricultural livelihood programs, editing photos and making reports for our supporters.
In the future, I hope to offer my skills in strategy, facilitation and communications for all programs taking place in Guatemala and Latin America. Our new training centre promises to support these programs in many ways.
The Journey to Working in Guatemala
I first visited BCI in the summer of 2012. After my 4 day visit; sleeping, eating and learning from a wonderful, diverse community of passionate humans gave me the courage to pivot from a life of finance to fulfill a childhood dream of being a storyteller.
After two years of building my own project in Canada, an organic community farm and sustainability blog, I came to pay homage and volunteer with BCI on January 3rd, 2014. Since then I’ve been directing the communications strategy until recently when I stepped down as Head of Global Communications to focus on Agricultural Livelihood programming with a specialization in the Latinamerica region.
My first trip to Guatemala was in 2017. Our leadership wanted to investigate alternative opportunity enhancements in agriculture for our trained solar engineers. Seeing as how Guatemala is known for quality coffee and every beneficiary was, in fact, a coffee farmer, it made sense to start there. My Colombian nationality and Spanish speaking skills made me a good candidate for the mission as well.
Fair Cooperation, Fair Wages
It was during my investigation in the northern highlands of Guatemala, in the Mayan civilization of Ixil, that I made contact with La Asociacion Chajulense (hereby La Chajulense), a coffee cooperative established in the early 80s.
La Chajulense gave me one of the most thorough overviews of any ground partner I had ever worked with. In La Chajulense’s struggle to bring justice and development to their communities by using the profits of coffee they had, over the past few decades, built infrastructures like roads, clinics, warehouses and schools. One repurposed school that they introduced us to is today the Barefoot College Guatemala Training Center.
Our Grassroots Legacy in Guatemala
Our new Guatelaman training centre is entirely equipped to facilitate classes and comfortable living for our trainees and staff. Soon, it will be nearly self-sufficient. Its kitchen is also becoming fully equipped for feeding large groups.
We aim to address the effects of Climate Change by remaining regenerative and sustainable as much as possible in practice. Deforestation is rampant in Guatemala making it unstable during times of intense climatic events. By maintaining local ecosystems and practising responsible stewardship, we will be fostering perennial conservation at the grassroots level.
We’ve been sourcing local products, learning and reintroducing ancestral recipes to trainees, staff and guests. The kitchen is where the fruit of mother nature gathers us together in creativity, care for one another and gratitude for all the elements of nature that nourish us.
Lawrence Miglialo is co-head of the Barefoot College International Agri-livelihoods department, with a focus on Latin American operations.
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