by Marcela Pino

2023 stood as a pivotal year for Food 4 Farmers, marking moments of both ambitious strides and reflective pauses. We’re proud to say that our year’s journey was rich with learning, growth, and tangible impacts. Reaching 1,723 coffee-farming families, up from 1,658 the previous year, our focus remained steadfast on quality over quantity. Our decision to maintain the program’s scale and exit the Mujeres del Soconusco program was a testament to our commitment to sustainable and long-term food security solutions. When reflecting upon our work over the last year, we uncovered a handful of key themes which are highlighted below. 

Cultivating Homegrown Solutions

Our home garden initiative stood as the cornerstone of our mission, transforming backyards into vibrant hubs of food sovereignty and agroecological learning. With 681 gardens and over 130 days of training, the program has been both a source of organic produce and an outdoor classroom, offering families not just food, but a deeper connection to the land and sustainable practices.

Empowering Communities Amidst Challenges

The shadow of emigration loomed large, pushing us to innovate by introducing our Community Promoter Program to a new group of 17 young people at the SOPPEXCCA coffee cooperative in Nicaragua. Aimed at empowering young people and women to become local champions of food security and embedding knowledge within their communities, the program has already shown promising results. These new community leaders are not just participants; they’re the future of sustainable farming in their regions.

Strengthening Foundations with Partnerships

In 2023, partnerships remained pivotal to our success. The training provided by our agroecological consultant, Tenamaste, to the Maya Ixil community in Guatemala covered essential topics such as soil health, crop diversification, and the cultural importance of food. Similarly, our collaboration with Espora – aimed at seed conservation with the COMEPCAFE cooperative – significantly enhanced our program’s effectiveness in Colombia. Moreover, agroforestry has grown increasingly central to our initiatives, with every partner now incorporating hardwood and fruit trees on their farms – a milestone made possible by the generous donation of over 37,000 trees from the Arbor Day Foundation

Fostering Economic Resilience

Our initiatives continued to help farmers turn the bounties from their farms into opportunities for economic empowerment, with beekeeping and local produce markets providing vital income sources. Beekeepers in our programs reported an impressive harvest, reaching a total of 62,000 kilograms of honey sold, which generated $119,700 USD paid to 169 beekeepers. Meanwhile, our women-run organic farmer’s market in Nicaragua, which now includes 37 women who come to sell produce from their home gardens 4 days a week, increased their sales by 10% from the previous year. Our partners at COMEPCAFE followed suit and launched a similar food market of their own in November, where their members can sell excess produce from their home gardens to make valuable extra income for their families. Despite challenges, these projects have flourished, demonstrating the viability of diversified farm incomes and the importance of community-led solutions.

Strategic Shifts

2023 also saw us making the difficult decision to exit our food security program with Mujeres Productoras del Soconusco in Chiapas, Mexico. This move came after careful evaluation, revealing that the cooperative did not yet have the capacity to sustain the program in the long haul. While this decision was not made lightly, it underscores our commitment to ensuring that our resources and efforts are directed where they can have the most sustainable impact. It’s a reflection of our adaptive approach, in which we constantly assess and realign our strategies to meet our mission effectively. This experience has provided us with valuable insights into the importance of readiness and capacity within our partner communities, shaping our approach to future engagements and initiatives.

Looking Ahead with Hope

As we turn our attention to 2024 and beyond, our commitment to embedding agroecological skills, supporting income generation, and building long-term food security for coffee-farming families remains unwavering. In an ever-changing landscape, the resilience and achievements of our communities fuel our optimism and drive our mission forward. The past year has been a testament to the power of community, resilience, and sustainable agriculture in addressing food insecurity. As Food 4 Farmers continues to evolve and adapt, our vision for a food-secure future for coffee-farming communities has never been clearer. Together, we’re planting the seeds for a more sustainable, equitable, and thriving world.