Producer Profiles

ASOCHAJUL - Asociación Chajulense Val Vaq Quyol

Asociación Chajulense Va’l Vaq Quyol (ASOCHAJUL) is a prominent organization in the small city of Chajul, nestled in the remote mountains of Guatemala. While the city has over 25,000 inhabitants, most people are unemployed and live in poverty. In 1988, Mayan farmers and surviving members of the former cooperative La Unión Ixil established an informal association to address the exploitation of farmers by intermediaries and to provide members with affordable access to necessities. Members worked together to create a pharmacy, purchase a corn mill and open a small grocery store.

ASOCHAJUL was formally founded in 1990 by 1,800 farmers in San Gaspar Chajul, El Quiche, Guatemala. In the years that followed, ASOCHAJUL transitioned to 100 percent organic and in 1994 became Fair Trade certified organic. The emphasis on respect for the natural world comes from a deep cultural belief of the Mayan people to “work the land without violence.” Members believe that while everyone has a right to improve his or her quality of life, nature has to be respected. The association continues to place great importance on conservation of the environment for present and future generations. They are currently working on developing a system of organic compost using vermiculture. They hope this will improve the soil quality and the production of coffee.

In 1991, ASOCHAJUL incorporated more communities into their organization, constructed their main offices and purchased machinery. ASOCHAJUL now has about 2,000 members. It offers these small farmers, many of whom only own half a hectare, hope to change their lives and gain access to basic services that most residents in the Chajul area lack.
 

Quotable

Fair Trade is different. I remember when we sold our coffee before, we could never make ends meet. With Fair Trade premiums and the support of the cooperative, we as producers can afford more, like access to loans, health services, technical assistance and social programs for our children. We have more possibilities to improve our lives and create more opportunities for our children.  

Pedro Hu Ortega, co-operative member

For us, fair trade is an opportunity for small farmers to offer their product on the international market with added value. This also adds value to small farmers and helps them get ahead by means of their own efforts.  

Miguel Tzoy Tum

Fair Trade is different. I remember when we sold our coffee before, we could never make ends meet. With Fair Trade premiums and the support of the cooperative, we as producers can afford more, gain access to loans, health services, technical assistance and social programs for our children. We have more possibilities to improve our lives and create more opportunities for our children.”  

Pedro Ortega, ASOCHAJUL

Programs

Focus on Fiscal Responsibility

In 2006, ASOCHAJUL's general assembly voted to designate a portion of their premium money each year to repay their debt. In 2011, they fully repaid the amount they owed and were also able to pay their producers an additional amount on top of the Fair Trade minimum price for every one hundred pounds of coffee that each producer sold.

Debt Repayment

In 2006, ASOCHAJUL was heavily indebted with over $1.5 million to repay. The directors and members of the cooperative came together and collectively decided that future premiums would be used to pay off the debt that they had accumulated over the years. In 2011, the cooperative was able to successfully pay off its debt using the premiums received from the sale of their fair trade coffee. This year, ASOCHAJUL is coming together in mid-August to decide on the future allocations of next season's premiums. There are plans in the mix to create incentive programs to help motivate members to increase their own production and overall efficiency.

Social Projects Foundation

ASOCHAJUL started a foundation to specifically manage the social needs of their organization. Since 2008, the foundation has given about one hundred scholarships to young people to attend elementary school, high school and college. It has also focused on health to combat malnutrition. Member families are learning how to prepare more nutritious meals for infants and children.