TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Orangish yellow blotches are starting to appear on the leaves of coffee plants in eastern Honduras, according to reports from the field. It’s a sign that the dreaded coffee rust fungus, or la roya, is making a comeback and endangering the crop that’s vital to the economies of Latin America.
Five years ago, an outbreak decimated coffee in the region, triggering a state of emergency and famine watches.
How bad will it be this season? It’s too early to tell. All we know is that the plant-choking fungus – first discovered in East Africa nearly 150 years ago – poses a serious threat to coffee’s future in the Americas.
As we search for a way to defeat the fungus, the coffee industry can help smallholder farmers build resiliency and deal with shocks from la roya – as well as from climate change, market swings, and other volatility common with cash crops.
Ed. Note: Like so many farmers and workers around the world, coffee producers can face challenges that threaten their livelihoods – from natural disasters like la roya to inadequate local resources. Here, Food 4 Farmers shares one possible solution for these communities. Not only does beekeeping facilitate viable income diversification, but it also helps to sustain the environment for future harvests.
A survey of households in Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala found that, on average, 63% of coffee households suffered food insecurity during the year. This seasonal food insecurity has a name: Los Meses Flacos, or the thin months of hunger. Families survive by eating less, eating cheap processed food, or going into debt to buy food. (SCAA, from the Blueprint to End Hunger)
Many families resort to off-farm work, neglecting the needs of their farms, with negative consequences for the following year’s harvest. My NGO, Food 4 Farmers, is working to make sure coffee farmers have the option to stay and thrive. Continue reading →