With open lines of communication to 244 producer organizations in Latin America, and strong relationships within the North American coffee industry, Fair Trade USA operates at a strategic intersection of coffee commerce. Historically, the organization has used this unique perspective to connect farmers with buyers and funding opportunities. During a crisis, Fair Trade USA’s role as a connector within the supply chain becomes even more valueable.
The entire coffee supply chain is keenly aware that Rust, or Roya, is an unignorable and potentially devastating force rapily encroaching on Latin American coffee supply.
Roya is caused by the fungus, Hemileia Vastatrix. It infects individual coffee leaves and inhibits the coffee plant’s ability to produce cherries. Coffee farms in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and El Salvador are among the most affected. Experts claim the outbreak could decrease coffee production for the 2013-2014 harvest by up to 50 percent.
Producers on the front lines of the rust battle desperately need both funding and education to save their crops and livelihoods. Thus, Fair Trade USA is implementing a multi-faceted response to the rust crisis that includes taking immediate action through the Rust Response Fund and enabling producer organized actions funded with the Fair Trade Premium Funds.
The Rust Response Fund
The Rust Response Fund is a small grant program that funds projects designed to mitigate and prevent rust. All Fair Trade Certified coffee cooperatives are eligible to submit project proposals to the Rust Response Fund. The fund is financed by Fair Trade USA, with support from business partners and individual donations. All donations are passed along to winning producer groups to fund actions combatting rust. Grants up to $25,000 each are distributed to winning proposals. The Rust Reponse Fund is an efficient way to support immediate, farmer led, action on the groud against rust.
Recent winners of project funding from the Rust Response Fund include COMSA cooperative in Honduras. COMSA is putting $20,000 in grant funding towards strengthening their coffee plants to be more resistant to rust through the use of organic fertilizers and other innovative techniques. More information on this project can be found here: http://www.fairtradeusa.org/press-room/press_release/fair-trade-usa-announces-new-winners-cooperative-small-grants-program
Fair Trade USA, with the help of an external selction committee, will award $50,000 towards two additional projects ($25,000 each) this summer.
Producer Lead Initiatives
In addition to grant funding, many producer organizations have elected to invest a portion of their Fair Trade Premium in efforts to prevent and mitigate rust.
The Guatemalan Fair Trade coopeative FEDECOCAGUA is using 30 percent of its Fair Trade premium to fund “Anti-Rust Brigades.” FEDECOCAGUA’s “Anti-Rust Brigades” employ technologically-efficient, motorized sprayers to combat the fungus in the most afflicted areas using natural botanical fungicides. This environmentally-friendly product, made from the Neem tree, will be used on both conventional and certified organic coffee crops.
The Guatemalan producer organizations ASOCHAJUL and ASOBAGRI are also investing Fair Trade Premium funds to purchase fumigation equiptment and implement “Anti-Rust Brigades.” Additionally, ASOBAGRI has invested $13,000 of its Fair Trade Premium funds in purchasing supplies to mass produce and distribute organic fertilizer to their members.
Together, COMSA, FEDECOCAGUA, ASOCHAJUL and ASOBAGRI are slowing the spread of rust with these grant and premium funded projects while providing a successful model for other organizations to adapt.
Who Benefits from this project?
Small-scale farmers in Latin America are particularly vulnerable to rust due to high poverty levels and the inability to invest in proper prevention techniques. Donating to the Rust Response Fund and purchasing Fair Trade Certified coffee enables cooperatives such as COMSA, ASOBAGRI, ASOCHAJUL, FEDECOCAGUA, and many others to assist their members in defending their coffee plants against rust.
“We are proudly and enthusiastically carrying out our project work every day to protect our members’ crops” – Sonia Vasquez, COMSA Cooperative, Honduras
How Can I Help?
Get Involved! Purchasing Fair Trade Certified coffee increases the amount of Fair Trade Premium funds available to cooperatives to prevent and mitigate rust. Additionally, you can contribute to the Rust Respone Fund here: http://fairtradeusa.org/donate/rust-defense
100 percent of donations will be directly passed on to Fair Trade producer organizations to fund rust prevention projects.
Contact Name: Laura Ann Sweitzer
Location: Oakland, CA, USA
Email Address: lsweitzer@FairTradeUSA.org
Phone Number: 510.663.5260 x375