CAN Associate Director Heather Putnam made a visit to our partner organization the Union of Cooperatives in San Ramón (UCA San Ramón), Nicaragua the first week of December. Our ongoing partnership with the UCA San Ramon is supporting 8 cooperatives to build community food sovereignty and sustainable local food systems. A principal challenge to this goal on the ground has been the cataclysmic coffee leaf rust (la roya) infestation that has affected coffee growing regions in Mexico and Central America over the last two years; more than 80% of coffee areas have been wiped out in some cooperatives we work with. In the Danilo Gonzalez Cooperative in the village of La Pita, San Ramón, CAN has been working with women, men, and youth coffee farmers not only to grow more food (and grow it sustainably) to increase access to food in this time of crisis, but also to develop more sustainable agroecological coffee production practices that will not only make their coffee plants more resilient to disease but also improve yields and quality (see past updates about this).
Seven women and two men have gone forward with experiments with agroecological soil fertility and production practices, including the production and application of micorrhyzae (mountain microorganisms that improve roots’ absorption of nutrients), various kinds of fermented biofertilizers, and mineral applications. Their recently planted coffee plants have been receiving these treatments and are doing great! Similarly, plants that were affected by la roya two years ago are back in good production. These farmers are confident that continued and expanded use of these techniques will strengthen their coffee plants’ resiliency against disease and climate change as they move forward replanting their devastated coffee fields. The more exciting news is that the other farmers in the cooperative are seeing the improvements and are moving to adopt the practices as well, and other cooperatives are also motivated to learn them and adopt them and further reduce their usage of chemical inputs, as they told Heather. The two agroeco cooperatives plan on using the Sustainable Agriculture Fund from AgroEco® Coffee sales to invest in more barrels and materials to expand their production of organic fertilizers to support more coffee replanting.