A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE COFFEE TRUST
La Roya Recovery Fund
for the San Gaspar Chajul Region, Guatemala
I am urgently asking for your support to help the Ixil coffee farmers from Asocaición Chajulense overcome the challenges of the Roya fungus that has so endangered their livelihoods. Your contribution towards raising $50,000 will help 500 farmers gain new skills in effective organic farming responses to fugal infections – knowledge they desperately need right now.
The Coffee Trust has worked in the Ixil region since 2009. Our work goes far beyond fair-trade coffee. We support food sovereignty, education, health care, and income diversity with programs such as micro-credit, weavings and honey production.
We support our local partners with an intense capacity building program that focuses on organizational development, sustainable financing, and democratic decision-making. In the process, we have witnessed the value of peer-to-peer training, the benefits of which tend to spread naturally throughout the countryside. These communities asked for our help in responding to this intense crisis.
Time is running out. Last month, I met with Andrés Torres Mendoza and many other a coffee farmers from the Ixil region of Guatemala where some of the finest quality, organic, fair trade coffee is grown. Andrés told me that he watched helplessly last year while his coffee plants suffered from La Roya, the rust-like fungus Hemileia vastatrix, which causes powdery yellow/orange spots to spread quickly on coffee leaves. He showed me how the infected leaves will eventually turn brown and drop from the coffee plant prematurely. The stressed plants can’t produce beans. Left untreated, the plants can easily die.
Andrés’s stunted harvest is having a ripple effect over the whole community. With less coffee to process, fewer women work at the processing plant. Families cannot afford school for their children, or basic medical care. I saw that hunger, already a problem, is now commonplace.
Andrés is a member of the fair trade, organic coffee association, Asociacion Chajulense, a beacon of hope for the Ixil people during Guatemala’s brutal, 36-year civil war, and the first fair trade association in Guatemala. Last year, the association lost 75% of its production due to La Roya, and is facing one of the greatest challenges in its history.
What Andrés and so many other farmers in the area don’t know is that there are time-tested organic farming approaches to fungal infestations that could be deployed right now.
It’s not too late. What is missing is the effective means of sharing the knowledge, skills, and information with farmers. Through Asociacion Chajulense, The Coffee Trust is partnering with 500 Ixil farmers like Andrés in Sotzil, Ilom, Chel, La Perla and Saq’siwan, to rehabilitate their small-scale organic coffee farms.
The Coffee Trust employs the principles of Campesino-a-Campesino, a Farmer-to-Farmer approach to teach farmers how to:
1) Improve the rocky mountain soil and replenish their land with rich, nutritious, organic compost, thus strengthening the plants’ ability to fight back from the inflection.
2) Use Effective Micro-Organisms to boost the impact of the organic fertilizer, and to decrease the spread of La Roya.
3) Create a process of widespread experimentation, such as spacing between plants that provide better results, or the use of grafting to strengthen the coffee plants. The principle is to share knowledge and techniques they have discovered throughout the years.
4) Continue to plant the high quality varietals that produce the finest quality coffee and generate the highest price for the farmers, and
5) Share knowledge and techniques from one local farmer to another in an easily digestible common language that is trusted, accepted and understood
Fair trade is great, but with little coffee to trade, the benefits are limited. In order to help keep these small organic farms going, and strengthen Asociacion Chajulense, your support is needed right now.
Please stand in support of the Ixil famers, families, and the communities of Asociacion Chajulense.
Bill Fishbein, Founder & Executive Director
A donation of $250 will help cover the cost of one experienced famer’s transportation and materials to promote an organic response to la roya among 500 farmers in the remote villages of Sotzil, Ilom, Chel, la Perla and Saq’siwan in the Ixil region of Guatemala. Would you please be the catalyst that makes the rehabilitation project possible though the Campesino-a-Campesino (farmer-to-farmer) training? Lessons learned will be shared with interested farmers in Guatemala and elsewhere.