More than 80% of the people in Alta Vera Paz, Guatemala, live below the poverty line. Many of them scratch a small income from the earth by producing spices, especially cardamom. Together with NGO Heifer International, Koppert distributor Popoyan and the Koppert Foundation , we are now contributing towards improving the livelyhood of these farmers using sustainable products and advising on more resilient growing practices.
The Koppert Foundation was invited to join the smallholder farming project, Raiz Natura, to develop a package with our products for the sustainable production of cardamom plants and other spices such as allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, clove and annatto.
Heifer International’s mission is to strengthen the productive capacity of smallholder farmers in Guatemala in a sustainable way through the improvement of seedling production, the development of agroforestry systems and good organic agricultural practices.
Project Raiz Natura
‘We have collaborated with Heifer on the Raiz Natura project in Guatemala since 2022,’ explains Koppert Foundation Manager Johannette Klapwijk. ‘They were keen to share our knowledge and technical know-how ito make plants stronger, which corresponds perfectly with the role of the Koppert Foundation.’
Raiz Natura is a three-year project that has two phases. Starting in May last year, the first phase of rearing healthy plants in communal nurseries is now almost complete. Mycorrhiza and Trichoderma products have ensured that the plants are healthier and more resilient than ever. There is a clearly visible difference between thecardamom seedlings produced in the conventional way, and the young plants produced using our sustainable methods.
The Raiz Natura project includes farmers from 12 villages. The second phase of the project is to grow cardamom in combination with different types of trees which creates a better environment for the cardamom plants, resulting in a higher yield and ensuring a better long-term income for the farmers.
Farming while taking care of the earth
Mario Ico Coc lives with his family in the village of Chisec in Alta Vera Paz. As a farmer and now also nursery manager, he has received various trainings that have improved his knowledge of growing spices sustainably and his nursery management skills.
‘These practices use no chemicals at all,’ he remarks. ‘This is a totally new approach since chemical products were previously used for disinfecting the soil and until the plants reached full growth. Seeing the results, I now prefer the use of biological products. It’s farming while taking care of the earth. I am proud of being part of this new movement.’ Mario hopes to become a certified organic nursery farmer who is able to leave a better legacy to the new generations of farmers in his region.
Another Raiz Natura Project participant is Carmela Paau Ché, a single mother of two children who works at the local nursery of San Pedro Carchá. She says it has given her the opportunity to show her family and community the benefits of a more environmentally-friendly agricultural method – ‘a practice more in harmony with Mother Earth,’ as she put it. She is applying her training to produce quality plants in the municipal nursery which annually produces more than half a million seedlings that include cardamon, black pepper, cinnamon, as well as forest tree species such as mahogany, cedar, and pine trees.