Guayaki Yerba Maté Empowers Women In Central America With Direct Purchasing Agreement

Processing Maya Nut Photo

Image: Guyaki Yerba Maté

Wouldn't you know it? Just as I was about to post something about a great new program from the folks at Guyaki, they decided to offer our readers a special deal at their online store. Serendipity at it's finest.

Guyaki's Yerba Maté is one of the favorite drinks around TreeHugger's virtual break room so we were excited to see them partnering with The Equilibrium Fund to connect with Alimentos Nutri Nutrales, a women owned business based in Ixlu Peten, Guatemala, to directly source Maya Nut for their Java Maté beverage.

Keep reading to find out how the relationship works. The Equilibrium Fund is a non-profit public charity with a mission to alleviate poverty, malnutrition and deforestation by teaching rural and indigenous women about the nutrition uses and processing of Maya Nut.

"By teaching women to harvest Maya Nut from the natural rainforest for food and income, we motivate them to conserve the rainforest and plant more trees for future harvests," says Erika Vohman, the Executive Director of the Equilibrium Fund. Since 2001, the communities trained by the Equilibrium Fund have planted more than 800,000 Maya Nut trees. "Sustainable Maya Nut harvesting within the rainforest is a robust, long-term economic alternative to the destructive land use practices which threaten the region, such as vast mono-crop plantations, clear cut logging and cattle grazing," adds Vohman.

Alimentos Nutri Nutrales, the business owned by the Ixlu women, recognizes that Maya Nut has the potential to be one of the most profitable non-timber forest products in the world. They employ more than 650 people (80% women) from the community. "By producing and selling Maya Nut, women earn a fair wage, often for the first time in their lives," says Vohman. While the efforts of the Equilibrium Fund are focused mainly on regional production and education, the organization realized a robust business opportunity to export the product directly to international food and drink makers. However, the deeply entrenched system of oppressive middlemen and lack of export knowledge and resources were intimidating barriers. "When Alimentos Nutri Nutrales approached companies that buy Maya Nut and requested that they explore importing it directly from them rather than the traditional system which depends on intermediaries who make major profits, Guayaki Yerba Maté was the only company to step up and accept the challenge to buy direct from rural women and they offered a very fair and competitive price," says Vohman.

While I suspect that some would find Java Maté to be an acquired taste I love its earthiness and drink it almost daily, usually when I'm jonesin' for a second cup of coffee that I know will give me the jitters for the rest of the day. The Maté packs a lighter caffeinated punch than coffee and is jammed full of other naturally occurring micro-nutrients and vitamins. The fact that my purchase helps communities in Guatemala to create sustainable livelihoods makes the drink that much smoother.

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