Ixcán Cardamom Guatemala
Cardamom first appeared in Guatemala at the beginning of the 20th century. After a young German, Oscar Kloeffer, introduced it as an aroma for medicines, the few seeds soon spread throughout the country. One of the areas in which cardamom cultivation increased most dramatically is the municipality of Ixcán in the region of El Quiché, where an excellent product is obtained. Ixcán is also where one of the country’s bloodiest civil wars took place in the1980s-1990s, which ended finally in 1996. It is home to five different ethnic groups (Q’eqchì, Q’anjob’al, Mam, Kichè and Ladinos) that are engaged primarily in agriculture.
The diffusion of cardamom production helped create job opportunities, especially in the last decade, when market value skyrocketed due to international demand (from the US, Europe and Arab nations). However, the decline of the market in the past five years has resulted in a drastic reduction of prices with the inevitable economic and social consequences for locals. Today, the cultivation of cardamom covers approximately 32% of the agricultural area and involves a little less than 50% of the Ixcán farming population, who are forced to sell their product practically at production cost despite its quality. For this reason, producers are increasingly abandoning their cultivation.
Cardamom, a fruit from the Zinziberaceae family, consists of the small, dark, extremely fragrant seeds enclosed in triangular green pods .The aroma is bittersweet. Harvesting is done by hand three times a year, in October, November and December. Afterwards, the cardamom is dried for about 24 hours before being sold (as seeds, grains or powder). Cardamom is an antiseptic, aids digestion and is considered an effective antidote against ailments of old age.
The Presidium involves five of the 22 communities that make up the commune of Ixcán: Valle 1, San Antonio Tzejá, Santiago Ixcán, Copal “AA” and Primavera del Ixcán. Within these communities, approximately 130 families cultivate ‘verde’, considered the most precious cardamom variety for its dimensions, color and aroma. The producers are followed by the Asociacion Integral de Productores Organicos de Ixcan (ASIPOI), a local organization founded in 2000 by the producers themselves (over 250 families) that works to promote environmentally, economically, socially and culturally sustainable development in the community.
In its launch phase, the Presidium has chosen those communities and families of producers that will be involved. Together, they have worked to define a production protocol and to improve the productive chain. Subsequently, the Presidium has dedicated itself to developing cardamom-based products (such as infusions and a liquor) and to self-promotion on the natioanl market. This year, thanks to the contribution of Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, a warehouse has been built to store cardamom before being sold.
Five communities in the Ixcán municipality: Valle 1, San Antonio Tzejá, Santiago Ixcán, Copal “AA”, Primavera del Ixcán
130 families gathered in Asipoi (Asociación Integral de Productores Orgánicos de Ixcán)
Asociación Integral de Productores Orgánicos de Ixcán
José Choc Poou
Tel. +502 53856673