Supporting sustainable economic development
and direct trade in Guatemala

Are You Sustainable

This is a question that volunteers, donors and financiers ask of many development organizations. Rightly so-who wants to invest a year of their life or a chunk of hard-earned cash in a short-lived endeavor? It's a polite way of asking, "Are your ideas, integrity, management and implementation good enough that you'll still be around next year?" You expect that of your banker, your broker and probably even your plumber. You should expect that of your non-profit as well. But why is the question really being asked?

It's a question asked by middlemen, coffee brokers, textiles vendors and business owners who survive on the resale of marked-up products made in undeveloped nations. Implicit to the question are assumptions which boil down to linear illogic: "There are many businesses with more years of operation that are designed around extracting resources from the poor. There are few businesses that give the poor a fair deal, and they haven't been around very long. Therefore, it is more sustainable to extract money from the poor than to be fair, so we should maintain the status quo." It's a question not posed to elicit an answer, but rather to cast doubt.

It's a question asked by economists, professors, writers and bankers. It's a question asked by those who understand two things: that an economy based on consumption falls apart when the consuming base lacks the cash to purchase goods, and the greater the difference in wealth between the consumers and the producers, the worse the problem. It's a question asked of the world economy, and of fiscal policy, and answered with government programs and bail-out packages.

It's a question asked by environmentalists, petroleum interests, hunters, and old men who have been around long enough to remember a time when the Ogallala aquifer was full, the Colorado river reached Mexico, words like ‘extinct' or ‘reintroduced' weren't used to describe the animals around them, saws were 12 feet long because there were trees 12 feet wide, and air was described with words like ‘brisk' or ‘fresh' instead of particulate count. It's a question asked of Mother Nature, and we turn away when she responds.

We're asked that question weekly, if not daily. As an organization, in the month of November we planted more than 12,000 tree seeds, invested $4,550 in local businesses, helped eight farmers start their own plantations, brought thousands of avocados and loquats to market through ancillary production, secured just over one ton of new coffee contracts, and even pulled a little zinc out of the garbage stream. And all of that on 259kwh of electricity and two gallons of gasoline.

Yes, but are you sustainable?