Coffee Farming in Guatemala
Unearth the World has partnered with a nonprofit in Guatemala that works with coffee farming communities to create economic opportunity that improves the quality of life for farmers, their families, and communities. This organization is located in San Miguel Escobar, just outside the colonial city of Antigua.
This organization envisions a coffee industry that is equitable and inclusive; that enables small-holder farmers to earn a dignified income and live prosperous lives, that facilitates authentic relationships between coffee producers and coffee buyers, and that meets economic, social and environmental needs of everyone involved. Take a look at the video below to see clips from our recent visit – it shows every step of the coffee making process (Harvesting, de-pulping, drying, roasting, tasting…)
Unearth the World’s Guatemalan partner has three pillars:
- Coffee Commercialization: This nonprofit coffee business creates direct connections with buyers and consumers and is a source of improved income for the small-holder farmers they work with.
- Cooperative Assistance: This nonprofit helps cooperatives build their capacity so that they can be autonomous, democratic and profitable organizations that provide income for their members. Through training and financing, Unearth the World’s partner provides access to the knowledge and resources farmers need for success.
- Community Tourism: This organization offers tours and group trips in order to open up a world of adventure and opportunity and are mutually beneficial for the individuals, the communities and the travelers.
Participants must be 18 years old or accompanied by an adult.
Individuals: Dates are flexible for volunteers. Volunteers must commit to one week and are welcome to stay for longer. Volunteers work Monday – Friday 8am-noon with afternoons and weekends free to explore Antigua and other parts of Guatemala, or sign up for Spanish classes and/or other activities (e.g. local artisan workshops, salsa lessons, hikes and other community tourism activities).
Groups: The standard itinerary for group trips is 8 days (including travel), however personalized itineraries for 3-30 days can be developed as well. These tend to be action packed days! See sample standard itinerary.
Accommodations and Meals
Volunteers have a few lodging options including a guesthouse or homestays with farming cooperative members—both options are located in San Miguel Escobar, 10 minutes outside of Antigua. The guesthouse has 9 bedrooms that can accommodate a maximum of 28 guests. Bedrooms and 4 bathrooms will be shared and services include hot water showers, clean drinking water, comfortable rooms and beds, bedding and towels, full kitchen, laundry machine, wireless internet, a large living room, and a lovely garden. The guesthouse is secure and in a quiet neighborhood. The homestays are with cooperative members and are within walking distance of the guesthouse and office. Homestays include bedding, towels and clean water. Most homes can host 3-6 guests. Homestays are an excellent option for individuals or groups hoping to brush up on their Spanish and truly experience life in Guatemala.
Volunteers staying in the guesthouse are responsible for their own meals. Homestays have the option to include breakfast, breakfast + 1 meal/day, or breakfast + 2 meals/day. Meals with homestays are fairly simple with lunch being the main meal and dinner a bit lighter.
Group trips can choose to stay in the guesthouse or with homestays. When the guesthouse is occupied, it may be possible to accommodate groups at the local posada (small, simple hotel) depending on availability and the size of the group.
All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) apart from lunch on the free day are included in the group itineraries and fees. A few meals are eaten out; the rest are traditional dishes prepared by members of the community.
Volunteers will receive two orientations. The first orientation happens before you even leave home! Unearth the World staff believes in fully preparing volunteers for their travel experience. So, we will educate you about the country, customs, language, and project itself so you can have realistic expectations of the project prior to your arrival. Read more about Unearth the World’s global service-learning training curriculum here.
Once participants arrive in Guatemala, they receive an orientation to the work of the nonprofit, the community and tips and reminders about your experience.
Guatemala borders Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. With a population of over 15 million people, it is the most populous country in Central America. It is well known for its majestic volcanoes, picturesque lakes, hard-working people, vibrant Mayan cultures, and world-class coffee. About 40% of the population identity as indigenous and more than 20 Mayan languages are spoken in Guatemala. It is also one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Although statistics vary, it is estimated that 56% of the Guatemalan population lives in poverty, and slightly over 20% in extreme poverty.
Coffee is one of the most valuable commodities in the world. It is estimated that the global coffee industry earns in excess of $60 billion annually, yet less than 10% of those earnings end up in the countries where coffee is produced, and slightly less than 0.5% of the total earnings translate into wages for those who actually labor to produce coffee. Even though coffee represents a large portion of the Guatemalan economy, the vast majority of farmers are small-holder, subsistence farmers who live in poverty. Because of this, Unearth the World’s partner aims to increase economic opportunities for small-holder coffee farmers so they can have dignified livelihoods and be able to provide for their families.
Typical Volunteer Schedule
Monday through Thursday volunteers will work alongside coffee farmers and their families. Typical volunteer work consists of agricultural work such as picking coffee during the harvest season (Dec-March/April), weeding, pruning, or planting in the fields (April/May-November), as well as coffee processing work such as milling, sorting, and roasting coffee which is done throughout the year. On Fridays, volunteer help distribute marketing materials in Antigua. Weekends are free time. In collaboration with Unearth the World’s nonprofit partner, we can provide an “insiders’ guide” to Antigua and surrounding areas as well as for Lake Atitlan and other suggestions.
- 7am Breakfast with host family (if doing homestay) or on your own
- 8am Meet at nonprofit office and head to activity with farmer (see examples above)
- 12pm Return from morning of volunteering
- 1pm Lunch with host family (if doing homestay with additional meals) or on your own
- 2pm-7pm Free time to explore Antigua or sign up for other activities such as Spanish lessons
- 7pm Dinner with host family (if doing homestay with additional meals) or on your own
- 8pm Downtime and bed
See sample itinerary: Guatemalan Coffee Service Learning Itinerary
At Unearth the World, we pride ourselves on being financially transparent so the volunteer can understand exactly where their money is going. We have two different types of fees: a one-time application fee and general project fees.
Application Fee – $300 (USD)
This is the only money that goes towards Unearth the World. This application fee includes the matching of the volunteer candidate with the international program, volunteer education and orientation, an information packet on the volunteer program and country of travel, 24/7 support from UTW staff, program marketing costs, travel costs to inspect programs and communication costs with volunteer.
General Project Fees: At this Guatemalan project, these fees go towards accommodations, food, salaries, operations and in-country transportation. A part of these fees also include a donation to the nonprofit. Fees vary depending on whether you are in a group or traveling as an individual. Please reach out to Unearth the World for more details.
Volunteer and Service Learning Rates
|1 week volunteering (no accommodations)||$35 per person||Monday-Thursday 8am-noon: Agricultural and coffee processing work such as coffee harvesting, weeding, milling, sorting and roasting coffee Friday morning: Marketing assistance such as distributing flyers in Antigua|
|1 week guest house||$50 per person ($40 per person if more than 1 consecutive week)||House includes linens and towel, hot water showers, purified water, washing machine, wifi and full kitchen Meals not included. Not available for all dates.|
|1 week homestay – breakfast||$95 per person||Homestays includes linens and towel, purified water. Not all homes have hot water showers. No wifi at the farmers’ homes.|
|1 week homestay – breakfast + 1 meal/day||$110 per person||Homestays includes linens and towel, purified water. Not all homes have hot water showers. No wifi at the farmers’ homes. Homestay meals are simple meals with dinner being a bit lighter|
|1 week homestay – breakfast + 2 meals/day||$125 per person||Homestays includes linens and towel, purified water. Not all homes have hot water showers. No wifi at the farmers’ homes. Homestay meals are simple meals with dinner being a bit lighter|
|Airport transfer to/from Antigua or San Miguel Escobar||$40||1-3 people|
|$12 per person||4+ people|
Service Learning Trips
|8 day itinerary||Starting at $900 per person
One waived leader fee for group of 10 or more
|All in country transportation, accommodations, listed activities, meals. Lunch on free day, free day activity and souvenirs and snacks not included.|
|Other itineraries, activities and lengths of stay||Prices vary based on activities and days|