25 million people depend on coffee cultivation for their livelihoods around the world. The nature of coffee production, however, often consists of a once a year harvest for which farmers are paid for their labor, leaving many struggling to make ends meet for several months out of the year. In too many cases, families do not have enough to eat and children go to bed hungry. These are known as “the thin months.”
At Mercy Corps, we are working closely with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. and other partners to fight seasonal hunger and poverty in the coffeelands. Like all Mercy Corps programs, our projects are community-led and market-driven, recognizing the unique contexts of each community we work in.
The causes of food insecurity and poverty among coffee farmers around the world are as diverse as the beans they grow. A community of farmers in Indonesia might need maternal and child health support, while a Nicaraguan coffee producing family may need technical advice to increase production or help diversify crops.
In Colombia, our Land and Opportunity in Tolima (LOT) program is helping 1,300 coffee producing families secure land ownership as well as promoting sustainable use of resources through training in land management, farming, and family gardens. Land ownership means that famers can access the financial services they need to invest in their land, leading to increased production, quality, and income.
In Indonesia, our Community Health and Investment for Livelihoods Initiative (CHILI) is providing financial literacy training, promoting saving habits, and accessing credit to 3,000 farmers. Farmers now have the resources they need to create and follow a budget and access credit for purchasing inputs like seeds and equipment. This helps farmers to help themselves out of poverty. The maternal and child health component of this program has established mother support groups where mothers meet to share and learn from one another, with a specific focus on promoting breastfeeding.
We are working in Guatemala with USAID and other partners to provide training sessions for farmers based around topics like the safe handling of pesticides and water and soil conservation. The Innovative Market Alliance for Rural Entrepreneurs (IMARE) project is helping rural farmers gain the skills to access larger commercial markets for their produce. In the first three years of the IMARE program, farmers increased their net earnings by 59 percent and boosted their sales to formal markets by $1.2 million.
Mercy Corps is also partnering with the Coffeelands Food Security Coalition, which is composed of six coffee companies including: Counter Culture, Farmer Brothers, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc., S&D Coffee, Starbucks, and Sustainable Harvest; along with the Specialty Coffee Association of America— committed to addressing seasonal hunger and poverty in the coffeelands. We have teamed up with the Coalition and Association Aldea Global Jinotega on our Empowering Food Secure Communities program in Nicaragua. We are working with 900 people to improve farming and business techniques, develop diversified sources of income by encouraging the cultivation of home gardens and diversified crop production, and engaging local governments in providing assistance to vulnerable families.
Who Benefits from this project?
At Mercy Corps, we work in the toughest places around the world to turn crises into opportunity. The beneficiaries from our food security projects are often the most vulnerable coffee-producing families suffering from food insecurity. In the areas that we work in Colombia, for example, over half of the population lives in poverty while food insecurity affects 70 percent of the rural population. Our programs target historically marginalized groups, including the landless, women, and young people. Food insecurity affects men, women, girls, and boys differently. We seek to understand the connections between gender, poverty, and hunger; and we work to ensure that program design and implementation are gender sensitive.
Here is the story of one woman we work with in Indonesia, in her own words:
“I was in my second pregnancy, and every month I was checked by the midwife in my village. She invited me to join the Mother Support Group held in my village. I joined the group when my pregnancy was six months along and I was happy to get more information about exclusive breastfeeding and the health benefits. My first baby wasn’t exclusively breastfed (only breastfed for three months) and my baby was often ill and I didn’t know why. I have applied all the information I gained in the group and my husband also supports my decision to provide exclusive breastfeeding to my second baby. I encourage other mothers to do the same and to get involved. The group also teaches other health related topics.”
How Can I Help?
Mercy Corps relies on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations to make our work in the coffeelands possible. Visit www.mercycorps.org/ways-to-help to learn more about how you can help. To learn more about the Coffeelands Food Security Coalition, visit www.mercycorps.org/tags/coffeelands
Contact Name: Britt Rosenberg
Email Address: [email protected]
Phone Number: 503.896.5863