The Coffee Farmer Resilience Initiative

Carly Kadlec
April 12, 2016

As organic farmers, many of our partners are especially susceptible to the multitude of environmental threats brought on by climate change. These new challenges, including the recent prevalence of the destructive fungus known as coffee leaf rust, are a real danger to the productivity of organic farms and the livelihoods of the people who rely on coffee.

In the face of all that, the innovation, resourcefulness and creativity of the farmers we work with is a continual source of inspiration for us. Farmers are working hard, and working together, to fight coffee leaf rust and address other agricultural challenges in a way that is organic, environmentally conscientious and sustainable. However, these efforts can be prohibitively expensive and difficult to implement alone -- which is where the support of international partners plays an integral role.

Equal Exchange is proud to be a part of the Coffee Farmer Resilience Initiative, a project primarily organized by Root Capital to provide grant funds to farmer organizations to combat coffee leaf rust, develop “Climate Smart Agriculture,” and promote farm resilience. Root Capital has secured funding through USAID to match funds raised by private partnerships. Equal Exchange has donated more than $100,000 to this fund, and it has been matched at a 1:1 ratio by USAID.

We have been collaborating on the Resilience Fund since June 2014 to coordinate with our farmer partners and ensure that our trading partners gain access to this fund. Currently, our partner co-ops San Fernando, Las Colinas, Comon Yaj Noptic, Finca Triunfo Verde, and CESMACH are all active participants. This is an ongoing effort, and we are now in the middle of year two in a three year cycle. Our farmer partners have invested the funds into multiple essential projects, including renovating acreage, investing in infrastructure for organic input management, and expanding technical assistance.

The most exciting work so far in this project has been the expansion of microorganisms and advanced biofertilizers within our supply chain. Comon Yaj Noptic and Finca Triunfo Verde have started to reproduce microorganisms and use them as fertilizers at seedling nurseries and out on farms. At Finca Triunfo Verde specifically, the technical team has begun investing in a system of tanks and barrels for producing different organic fertilizers and solutions. Producing on a large scale brings down the cost of production per liter and extends access to all of the co-operative’s members.

We hope to continue this productive work as it directly addresses threats to productivity and provides material support for farmer organizations. Our hope is that with this support, our farmer partners will not just survive these new challenges but grow stronger and more resilient as they move into the future of coffee.