In 2007, a research team from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) was commissioned by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to develop an understanding of the community challenges faced by small-scale coffee farmers in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico. The team, which included our co-founder Rick Peyser, conducted one-on-one interviews with hundreds of individuals and families on their farms, in community centers, in cooperative offices, and in homes.
The research revealed that “even producers who receive fair trade premiums suffer a period of food insecurity ranging from one to seven months of the year – every year.” Of the farmers interviewed, 67% experienced 3 to 8 months of extreme food scarcity each year. Families often refer to this period as “los meses flacos,” the Thin Months of hunger.
The causes include a combination of low coffee prices, dependence on a single crop for income, limited access to finance, and lack of opportunity to make substantive changes, resulting in a poverty trap for millions of families.