Manos Campesinas is an organisation of small-scale coffee farmers in the highlands of southwestern Guatemala. The organisation was formed in 1997 and today it brings together 1,073 members organised into seven co-operatives located in the Departments of San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Retalhuleu and Solola.
For many years prior to the creation of Manos Campesinas, the Pastoral Team of the Catholic Diocese of Quetzaltenango had been providing technical and organisational support to small-scale producers in the area. The majority of these farmers each own less than 2 ¼ acres of coffee and so, despite all of the technical assistance and support in production, the farmers still lost money when it came time to sell their coffee. Isolated from the markets, and information about the market, coffee producers were still forced to sell their coffee to coyotes (middlemen) at unsustainably low prices, leaving them with very little money at the end of the harvest. With this dilemma in mind, Manos Campesinas was formed to commercialise and export its members’ coffee.
The primary objective of Manos Campesinas is to satisfy the needs of its members by offering better market alternatives and by giving them marketing support. In addition, they provide technical assistance in the field to increase the quantity and quality of the coffee harvest. Today, the organisation also provides technical support to help the farmers diversify their products, convert to organic production, improve the administration of the co-operatives and promote women’s participation.
Each co-operative has an active women’s organisation. Manos Campesinas supports gender equity by providing training programmes which work with women to build leadership within their organisations.
Manos Campesinas has a clear vision for the future and they see buyers as allies. They would like more buyers like Equal Exchange, that go beyond just a trade relationship.