Randolfo Lima says he would have loved to be an agronomist. He is 36 years old and manages 4.8 hectares of coffee plantations that are Rainforest Alliance certified, located in the beautiful mountains of Ayarza, in the southwest of Guatemala, where almost all families live on agriculture and most depend on coffee cultivation. Ayarza is about 1,400 meters above sea level, an ideal height to harvest the best quality coffee.

Lima grew up happily planting coffee with her father, but at 17, out of rebellion and in love, she went to the United States, where she lived until three years ago when she returned to her native Guatemala.

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"When I came back I didn't think twice and started making coffee with my dad," says the young man amidst the beautiful views and huge pine trees in the coffee plantation. Her father is now 77 years old and no longer works as much as before.

Upon arrival, things were different in the coffee plantations. His father talked to him about producing but taking care of nature and he was already planning to obtain the Rainforest Alliance certification, since he was participating with neighboring producers in the Assistance Network for Sustainable Primary Products (SCAN), a program led by 17 international organizations that help build capacity and provide personalized technical assistance for producers who want to adopt sustainable practices and participate in sustainable markets.

Lima did not have a hard time complying with the requirements of the Rainforest Alliance certification, which they achieved in 2012. Since then, they have improved their crops with the implementation of sustainable agriculture practices such as contour or slope planting, a technique that It is used on sloping terrain to improve water drainage and prevent soil from leaking, wiping out important nutrients that the plant needs.

They have also trained farm workers on the importance of not contaminating the land, which according to Lima, has been the most difficult. Before, at the end of the day the farm was full of bags, plastic bottles and waste of what they consumed in the day or of products that were applied; Now everything is collected and deposited in landfills or recycled. The workers began to use the protective equipment compulsorily and a special warehouse was built for the tools and chemicals used in the coffee plantations.

In the training offered by the SCAN program, Lima learned about the importance of renovating coffee plantations, so he has focused on replacing bushes that are more than 40 years old and is planting new plants where they have space. He also says that unlike other producers in the area, he fertilizes twice a year to give the plants a hand. Thanks to renewal and fertilization, coffee plantations are increasing their production.

With the calculator of his “smartphone” or smartphone, Lima explains to me how much he has invested in these improvements and shows me positive numbers about the earnings.

Many neighboring growers come to him for advice and ideas on his growing practices and to ask him when is the best time to sell his crop. Lima is one of the few producers in Ayarza who has a “smartphone” with Internet access, and who knows how to use it, with which he makes numbers about his coffee plantations, searches for information on the crop, keeps in contact with his daughter who lives in United States and it follows day by day information on the price of coffee.

The Rainforest Alliance is working on a pilot project in Guatemala for producers such as Lima to use technology to share data on coffee, production, certification and good practices in sustainable agriculture among themselves.

When we say goodbye, I tell Lima that it is never too late to go back to school and pursue your dream of being an agronomist. He smiles and nods at me, but for now he only promises to continue training to be a better coffee producer, to take care of nature and to continue helping his neighbors.

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