The Blog

Fair Trade, Land Reform, and Mayan Resilience in Guatemala

In May, Neydi Juracán, a young Kakchiquel Maya woman and the National Coordinator of Guatemala’s Campesino Committee of the Highlands (CCDA), toured British Columbia through the BCCIC’s George Sisters Fellowship programme. Neydi visited several communities to share insights on Indigenous efforts in Guatemala to reclaim land and strengthen organizations through Fair Trade coffee.

The CCDA, founded in 1982, defends workers’ rights on plantations, recovers lands for Mayan communities, and promotes Mayan culture. Representing over 100,000 campesino (small farming) families, the CCDA is a key force in Guatemala’s struggle for land reform, food sovereignty, and cultural survival. Neydi offers valuable lessons on these efforts.

While her tour is over, you can watch the recording from her presentation in Vancouver on CoDevelopment Canada’s Facebook Page

Insights Gained by Neydi's Tour:

Current Context:

  • Indigenous women, despite being the majority of farmers in Guatemala, face severe land ownership restrictions and lack access to agrarian policies that support sustainable farming.
  • Mayan protesters, including through the CCDA, played an essential role in calling for a peaceful transition of power when Bernardo Arévalo’s inauguration was stalled in January, 2024 – putting into question whether he’d actually be able to take his seat as president.  
  • Arévalo’s presidency represents a massive vote against corruption perpetrated by oligarchs and organized crime in the country. 
  • Advocating for their rights is nothing new to Indigenous people in Guatemala: it’s been a fundamental part of their lives for over 500 years.

Historical Context:

  • Indigenous Peoples have been fighting against colonialism and exploitation of their lands for over 500 years: by the Spanish, extractive industries, and large multinational corporations such as Chiquita. Their struggles have gone through several phases and continue to this day.
  • Neydi highlighted the brutal history of land grabs and violence, particularly the 1954 counter-revolution and the civil war (1960-1996), which continue to impact Indigenous communities.

Empowering Women and Youth:

  • Women, who make up a vast majority of the farming population, have only limited land ownership rights, often tied to their marital status.
  • The CCDA’s initiatives have significantly involved women and youth in leadership roles, with 59% of coffee producers being women and 43% being youth, most of whom are young women.
  • Educational programs and political training schools have been critical in raising political literacy and empowering the next generation of leaders.
      • This has resulted in a generation of politically literate young leaders committed to transforming their communities.

Reclaiming Mayan Territory 

  • The CCDA has been instrumental in defending the human rights of Indigenous farmers and advocating for land reform. 
  • They have been at the forefront of reclaiming ancestral Mayan lands, often facing violent evictions and legal battles. 
  • Strategies include using the peace accords established after Guatemala’s armed conflict in 1996 and purchasing land from corporations and wealthy landowners during economic recession.
  • To date, the CCDA has recovered over 600,000 hectares of land and promotes sustainable agriculture.
  • Despite the 1996 peace accords promising agrarian reform, access to land remains a significant issue, particularly for women and youth.

The Role of Agriculture and Fair Trade Coffee: 

  • CCDA’s global partnerships through the “Fair Trade +” coffee industry finance education, health programs, and land reclamation efforts. 
  • The CCDA engages in advocacy, calling on Guatemalan governments to support public policies, programmes, and funding that support Mayan communities.
  • Mayan farmers are pioneering sustainable agricultural practices, particularly in coffee production.

International Collaboration and Support:

  • Purchasing coffee produced by the CCDA (such as Café Etico here in Vancouver!) is an act of solidarity with Indigenous peoples in the country and a vote for social justice. 
  • Canadians can play a crucial role by staying informed, advocating for political prisoners, and standing in solidarity with the CCDA.

Conclusions:

Neydi Juracán’s tour of British Columbia has shed light on the long-standing and comprehensive efforts of Mayan communities to reclaim their land and livelihoods in Guatemala. By supporting the efforts of the CCDA and its members, we can contribute to a more just and sustainable world.

Neydi’s tour was funded by BCCIC’s George Sisters Fellowship. The one-time fellowship offered funding and support to a BC-based organization to invite, host and support an activist they work with in the Global South to visit British Columbia to share their knowledge, lived experiences and perspectives with BC publics.