In October, I visited the two first level cooperatives that produce CAN’s AgroEco® Nicaragua Coffee, and meet with the cooperatives and women’s groups participating in AgroEco®. I came away from my visit to the cooperative in La Pita with a sense of hope and also a mandate for more action.
The cooperative, like all coffee farmers in Central America right now, is trying to recover from the crisis of the last three years of coffee leaf rust infestation, that wiped out up to 80% of coffee plants in some communities in the region. Two years ago, CAN’s began supporting the efforts of seven women and one man in the community of La Pita to begin producing agroecological fertilizers and foliar sprays to support the replanting of coffee lands lost to la roya. The funds came from the Sustainable Agriculture Fund that is included in the price paid for AgroEco® Coffee. The idea was that by building soil fertility, the new coffee seedlings and the older plants that had survived the infestation, would be more robust and more resilient to pests and other fungal infestations in the future, as these are expected to become more severe and more frequent as climate change progresses.
Healthy coffee seedling
CAN also established the Fund for the Unpaid Work of Women two years ago, and the women in La Pita have been managing this fund as a revolving fund that they draw upon to pay the short term costs of labor of establishing coffee seedlings and transplanting them into coffee growing areas. Two years ago, CAN, the UCA San Ramon, and the seven women and one man in the group had agreed to create exclusive areas of agroecologically-grown coffee where these new soil fertility practices would be experimented with, shade cover would be diversified, and no chemicals would be used.
The initial area of experimentation was 7.25 manzanas, or 5.4 hectares. At that time, the remaining 14 cooperative members were skeptical that the investment of money, time, and labor would be worth it or would result in any difference in the coffee. But the the group of eight was willing to experiment and take the risk, especially since they were supported by the two funds associated with the sale of their AgroEco® Coffee. My jaw dropped when the women told me that with the help of the funds, they had doubled the area of agroecological coffee in production – they had planted over five more hectares of coffee!
I was further shocked by the appearance of the plants being cared for agroecologically – they were twice as big as the non-agroecological coffee plants nearby, and some of them even had coffee cherries on them at only 14 months old (normally cherries don’t appear until after two years)! Furthermore, the coffee seedlings and transplants, as well as the older plants being treated, were free of coffee leaf rust. I realized that at the pace they were recuperating their coffee fields, they would have an amazing amount of AgroEco® Coffee available to sell in the next two years, and that their efforts to produce quality agroecological coffee should be justly rewarded. Now CAN and its partners need to seek out more coffee roasters that want to support these efforts by buying the coffee the cooperatives are producing.