Green Mountain Coffee Roasters today announced its part in a $7 million initiative to combat leaf rust among certain coffee farms in Latin America.
“We depend on a long-term supply of high-quality beans for our business,” Lindsey Bolger, Vice President of Coffee Sourcing for GMCR, said in a press release accompanying the announcement, made at the Let’s Talk Roya event taking place in El Salvador (presented by green coffee importer Sustainable Harvest). “This investment will provide coffee farming families with the tools and capacity they need to more successfully confront threats to their coffee and their livelihoods, through greater long-term resilience at the cooperative and household level.”
In partnership with the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the InterAmerican Development Bank — facilitating private-sector investments for low-income populations — and the nonprofit Skoll Foundation, the initiative takes a two-pronged approach to fighting La Roya: Assisting farmers with immediate crop losses to leaf rust, while providing new rust-resistant varietals for long-term crop sustainability. The investment supports nonprofit agricultural lender Root Capital’s Coffee Farmer Resilience Initiative.
The Root Capital initiative has already provided a $2 million loan to SOPPEXCCA, a 650-member coffee farmer cooperative based in Jinotega, Nicaragua. Additional cooperatives to receive funding were not named in the announcement, but the groups say the goal is to provide “long-term lending to finance the replacement of diseased coffee trees affected by the fungal disease with short-term trade credit, financial management training, climate-smart agronomic assistance and household-level income diversification.”
The groups also hope the initiative will provide other organizations with a blueprint for other private-public funding relationships that might benefit coffee farms that have been suffering from rust outbreaks. The latest statistics from the International Coffee Organization suggest that the current leaf rust epidemic is the worst globally in more than 40 years, affecting half of Central American coffee farms and causing more than $1 billion in crop losses in the 2012-13 crop cycle.
“Like small businesses in the U.S., smallholder coffee farming is the economic engine for rural communities in Latin America,” says Sustainable Harvest President David Griswold. “We’re pleased to be working with Root Capital, IDB and GMCR to help increase farmers’ resiliency to the effects of climate change, enabling them to continue to deliver the high quality coffee U.S. consumers and the rest of the world depend on.”