The Starbucks Foundation has granted Texas A&M University-based World Coffee Research $400,000 to help replant and improve water management in coffee-farming communities in San Pedro Yepocapa, in the Department of Chimaltenango, Guatemala.
Farmers in the region are trying to regroup following leaf rust outbreaks where, by some estimates, 60 to 70 percent of crops have been decimated. The grant project, in coordination with the Guatemalan national coffee association Anacafé, will include introducing and testing new rust-resistant F1 hybrid varieties of coffee plants, in addition to working to improve wastewater quality through an cooperative training program, and education on farming economics. All of this, of course, is designed to boost Yepocapa coffees in a competitive marketplace and help members of farming communities build and maintain sustainable incomes.
“Small producers must change the way they farm coffee if they intend to survive in the new climate-changed, competitive world of high-quality coffee,” WCR Executive Director Tim Schilling said in an announcement following the grant receipt. “The use of the new varieties will give the farmers a better future by generating considerably more income and allowing them to attract quality-demanding roasting companies who pay higher prices.”
The grant was provided by Starbucks’ nonprofit, charitable wing, the Starbucks Foundation. The group doled out $3.7 million in grants for similar projects at origin in 2014, and estimates that it has administered $15 million of grants related to farming community building since its inception.
In marginally related news, Tracy Ging, vice president of sustainability and strategic initiatives for S&D Coffee & Tea in Concord, N.C., has been named vice chairperson of World Coffee Research. Over the next three years of her term, Ging will act as vice chairperson, chairperson and immediate past chairperson. Ging has been on the group’s board of directors since 2012. She’s also a director on the SCAA board.
Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine.
It is great that coffee companies have woken up to the economic pain, if not the human cost, of la roya. I do want to clear up something, however, that might help folks get the magnitude of this. Yes, as you say, statistically, roya impacts somewhere between60-70% of coffee crops. And that is way up from the projections of 30% a year ago. But here is the real story. Included in that statistic is the fact that many, many farmers have lost 100% of their trees (not just their current crop). Most of these farmers rely on coffee for all of their income. Trees may take three to five years to produce meaningfully. So for many farmers, they have lost their entire income for the next three to five years. That is profound and truly sobering if you care at all about human beings and communities that grow coffee. Can any of us imagine waking up and realizing that we have no income stream for the next few years unless we either move or change our lifetime’s work? No we can’t, but we need to try.