How Bees Saved The Gomez Family Farm
Juan Colas Chel Gomez is a member of the Maya Ixil coffee cooperative. He lives in Nebaj and has a ranch in rural Santa Avelina where he keeps his hives. The Gomez family is a great example of how beekeeping helps coffee farmers.
Several years ago, Juan came to the US, worked in construction for a while, then returned home to his family in Guatemala with enough savings to buy a small coffee farm. Unfortunately, in the farm’s first year, it was hit hard by coffee leaf rust disease, and Juan lost 80% of his coffee crop.
Without coffee, Juan and his wife didn’t know how they would be able to put food on the table for their children. They rented their home and lived with relatives in Nebaj. But their coffee farm remained idle, because Juan didn’t have the means to renovate the coffee plants, or put in new ones.
Then, Juan heard about how Beekeeping helps coffee farmers diversify their income. Juan discovered a beekeeping program starting up at Maya Ixil, managed by Food 4 Farmers and social lending organization Root Capital. After attending a meeting to find out more, he came home and announced to his family, “We’re going to have hives!”
Juan enrolled in the program. He learned about the basics of commercial beekeeping, attending 5 week-long trainings over the next 16 months. In Dec 2015, Juan received his first two hives and necessary supplies to start his own beekeeping business. Today, he has 14 hives, and is selling honey and pollen.
Juan told us that without this program, his family would have had to sell their house. His son was two years old when the coffee rust crisis hit, was malnourished, and became chronically sick because Juan and his wife couldn’t afford enough food for the family and had nothing left after their coffee farm failed.
Today, his son’s health has improved, with the help of the income Juan earns from honey sales, and by eating honey and pollen every day. Perhaps just as important, honey production has given Juan, his family, and other Maya Ixil coffee farmers hope for the future, and a sense of pride that they can now provide for their families.
Thanks to our Coffee Lovers Club members we are able to support nonprofit work like Food 4 Farmers.