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ANSA – A Rural Guatemalan Women’s Cooperative

Alimentos Nutri-Naturales S.A. (ANSA) is a small women-owned business devoted to promoting ramon nut products that protect the rainforest, improve local nutrition especially for children, and provide income to rural families. ANSA was formed in 2006 by 56 women in a rural village on the border of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in northeastern Guatemala.

The story of the development of ramon nuts as a commercial product that brings income to families living in rural villages in Guatemala began with the convergence of the needs of two women living very different lives: Caroline MacDougall and Gladis Esperanza Rodriguez.

Caroline was searching for a new ingredient for Teeccino that tastes like coffee. She discovered that roasted ramon nuts, a traditional Maya food, was drunk by the Maya before the Spaniards brought the coffee plant to Central America. Gladis was living in the rural village of Ixlu on the outskirts of the Maya Biosphere Reserve where ramon trees grow in abundance. She cured herself of chronic, severe gastrointestinal problems by drinking an old Maya recipe of ground ramon nuts in milk.

Teeccino began working in 2000 with ForesTrade Guatemala, a US based company that managed the program to study and develop the potential harvest of ramon nuts as a wild harvested crop that could be certified organic.

By 2006, the Guatemala government had approved the ramon nut harvest under a management plan for the preservation of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Caroline and Gladis met each other for the first time that spring when Caroline went to witness the first commercial harvest of ramon nuts which gave this formerly unknown forest product economic value.

With support from international non-profits organizations such as The Rainforest Alliance and guidance from the Guatemala Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock & Food, Gladis formed ANSA in 2006 with a small group of women to purchase land and build a processing center and bakery for ramon nuts in Ixlu. Their facility now includes 7 solar dryers, roasting and grinding equipment and a commercial bakery where 10 women work full time to produce cookies, bread, and pastries based on ramon nuts. Their baked goods are distributed in rural schools that participate in government supported school lunch programs for over 3,000 children. They are also reforesting and restoring damaged ecosystems by planting over 150,000 ramon nut trees.

The harvest of ramon nuts for Teeccino’s Maya line of herbal coffees now brings a significant income source to over 500 families in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. ANSA has become Teeccino’s partner to collect and dry ramon nuts during the two seasons a year when the fruit on the trees ripen in the upper canopy of the forest and the seeds fall to the ground.

Working with ANSA to harvest ramon nuts fits perfectly into Teeccino’s mission to promote rainforest preservation by developing sustainable sources of income for impoverished families. The ramon nut harvest has fulfilled the dreams of both Caroline and Gladis to develop their women-owned companies to serve the greater needs of their communities and the environment.

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