Guatemala: Rio Azul
Rio Azul is a farmer cooperative. It has 185 members, and the co-op is led by devoted manager Ramon Delgado. 115 of the members produce conventional coffee, 70 produce organic coffee, and 20 produce both types on separate parcels of land. Most members own small pieces of land that average 1 hectare or less. The steep hills of the region make it difficult to keep the soil from eroding, but Ramon says farmers have learned to prevent erosion and maintain the nutrients in the rich soils by allowing selective ground-covering plants to remain. In addition to coffee, the farmers also grow other crops such as corn, beans, mangoes, papayas, melons, and avocados.
The Rio Azul cooperative is located in the region of Huehuetenango, in northwest Guatemala, near the border with Mexico. Huehuetenango is one of eight coffee-producing regions in Guatemala. Rio Azul’s main office is in the city of Jacaltenango. The producers’ farms are located on hillside slopes within half hour to an hour drive from Jacaltenango.