CHALLENGES IN THE COFFEELANDS
Food and the way it’s produced has a dramatic impact on climate, livelihoods, biodiversity, and food security.
Over reliance on input-intensive agricultural systems and monocultures – like coffee – has left budgets stretched, the environment battered, and farming families hungry.
Though our vision is that “every family has enough, nutritious food, every day,” how we get there varies, according to the challenges and priorities of each community partner.
Food insecurity is caused by a range of issues, so our approach reflects the needs and goals of each partner, requiring in-depth diagnostics, community-specific strategies, and ongoing collaboration to develop effective long-term solutions, tools and training.
The biggest challenge for most coffee-farming families is coffee itself.
Coffee is not Enough
Most coffee farmers are dependent on coffee alone, a product that provides inadequate income, yet they lack the resources needed to invest in alternatives. Even though the cooperatives we work with produce fair trade, organic-certified coffees, most families have insufficient land to produce enough coffee to achieve an adequate livelihood.
The small-scale coffee-farming families these co-ops represent live on as little as $0.50 per person per day, far below the Global Poverty Line of $1.90. In Guatemala, annual food costs for a family of five totaled $5,616 in 2018, according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística Guatemala. The farming families at Maya Ixil reported an average net income from coffee of just $900.
To make up some of this gap, many farmers leave their communities to labor on large farms and in cities, or seek work in the U.S. Even in Colombia, considered a middle-income country, coffee farmers are unable to cover their production costs and feed their families. Our partner communities there report that 30% of families have been unable to meet their basic food needs.
The time for TransFARMation is now
Coffee-farming families and organizations recognize the need for a ‘transFARMation,’ a disruption of the current approach to agriculture. This includes:
- Cultivating women and young people as local leaders to encourage healthier diets and introduce climate-smart farm practices that support quality of life and a healthier planet.
- Strategic on-farm diversification to find new ways to earn income, make it possible for farming families to stay together — and close the economic gap between income from coffee and the cost of living.
- Local production of healthy food, to bring access to better nutrition close to home. Reducing dependency on outsourced, processed food, while planting the seeds of stronger local food systems builds economic opportunity, and the number of families who can thrive independently.
While our focus is on food security and livelihoods, we understand that the causes vary by family and community. In some places, water or healthy soil may be the main challenge. In others, women and young people have had few opportunities to learn or lead. Our work always reflects the particular needs of the families and communities we serve.