There is an epidemic that is causing a crisis for millions of coffee farmers in Central America: Coffee rust. Rust is a parasitic fungus that attacks coffee plants. In Central America, the coffee rust epidemic this year has ravaged crops, affected the livelihoods of more than 2 million people, and caused loss of more than 500,000 jobs. Guatemala and other countries have declared national states of emergency. Total coffee loss for the region is estimated at 20% to 30% this year, and as much as 50% in 2014. This crisis is shattering the already-fragile safety net of millions of people who are dependent on coffee for their livelihoods.
How did this happen, and why is the situation so dire? Climate change is one of the key reasons. Changes in both temperature and rainfall likely contributed to this unusual outbreak. Warming temperatures at higher altitudes and moisture accumulation are likely allowing the rust to thrive.
Because of our ever-growing demand for coffee, coffee growers have not diversified their production or their income enough to be resilient in the face of the coffee rust outbreak. Instead, they’ve put more and more of their land into coffee production to meet that demand. A recent Catholic Relief Services survey of the impacts of coffee rust on smallholder farmers in Central America reports that on average, only 23 percent of farmers had access to income-generating activities besides coffee farming, and an overwhelming majority— 90-95 percent — are entirely dependent on coffee for their income.
What are we doing about it? Food 4 Farmers has one focus: to help coffee co-operatives and other coffee-growing organizations fight hunger by diversifying farmers’ livelihoods. We work with communities, to build long-term plans and implement effective strategies so farmers can produce food for income or personal consumption, and feed their families, every day. Our initial phase of work — the diagnostic and plan — is completed within weeks, and strategies to implement solutions, like cocoa production, school gardens, beekeeping, community and home gardens, and processed foods, can be up and running within months.
Please visit the rest of our site to see how we work with coffee-growing communities to address food insecurity.
This year is a warning bell for coffee growers across Latin America — next year, their situation will be much worse. Please help coffee farmers and their families build resilience to the coffee rust crisis NOW. Donate here.
Hunger is an issue for coffee-growing families.
Worldwide, one in six people experience hunger and poverty. This is especially true in rural areas in developing countries where coffee is grown, and is a hardship faced by millions of coffee farmers and their families.
Most coffee farmers depend almost exclusively on income from their coffee harvest. This dependency on one crop has created a crisis. Farmers are extremely vulnerable to coffee price fluctuations, and have nothing to fall back on if prices drop, or crops fail. As a result, millions of coffee farmers and their families cannot put enough food on the table for months at a time – year after year.
Food 4 Farmers works with coffee communities in Latin America to address the problem of chronic seasonal hunger in coffee-growing communities.
“Even producers who receive fair trade premiums suffer a period of food insecurity ranging from one to seven months of the year – every year.”
CIAT, on behalf of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
After the Harvest: Fighting Hunger in the Coffeelands
“After the Harvest: Fighting Hunger in the Coffeelands” has won the Biodiversity Award at Festival delle Terre, a film festival sponsored by the Italian non-profit, Crocevia. The judges gave the award “for the sustainable solutions proposed by the film, which enhance the diversification of cultures…”
“After the Harvest” focuses on the three to eight months of the year when small-scale coffee farmers in Mexico and Nicaragua are unable to maintain their normal diet. These are “los meses flacos,” or the thin months, when families make ends meet by eating less, eating less expensive foods, or borrowing against their future earnings from coffee. The film explores creative solutions to seasonal hunger such as crop diversification, grain storage, and family gardens.
Narrated by actress Susan Sarandon, the film was funded with a grant from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.