2014

Root Capital Partner to Develop Micro-Enterprises for Resilient Coffee Supply Chains

Contact name: Janice Nadworny
Email: janice@food4farmers.org
Phone: 802.482.6868
Project URL: www.food4farmers.org
Organization Name: Food 4 Farmers

Project: Food 4 Farmers – Root Capital Partner to Develop Micro-Enterprises for Resilient Coffee Supply Chains
Location: Guatemala
Additional information on location of project: Maya Ixil Cooperative region
Projected Impact: 130

Project Description
Working hillside hives copyFood 4 Farmers’ newest project in Guatemala tests our basic premises: Can we identify and plug the capacity gaps preventing coffee-growing communities from creating lasting food security? Can a small organization have an impact by working with like-minded larger organizations that can leverage the work through their extensive networks?
Our new initiative with Root Capital, a leader in the nonprofit social investment world and the specialty coffee industry, aims to accomplish both goals.
“Business in a Box,” an innovative program that promotes commercial beekeeping as an alternative source of income for smallholder coffee farmers, was launched under Root Capital’s Root Link program, a three-year initiative designed to strengthen the financial management of smallholder producer organizations. It is now being expanded under the Root Capital’s region-wide Coffee Farmer Resilience Initiative.
Our organization is working with Guatemalan cooperative Maya Ixil on this two-year pilot program. We are training the co-op’s technical advisors and 46 coffee farmers to give them the skills necessary to develop farmer-owned beekeeping enterprises. During this first year, farmers are learning together at communal apiaries, working the hives every week and receiving training from our organization in all aspects of beekeeping. In the second year, they will begin cultivating honey on their own farms to provide additional income, while continuing to receive training and support from Food 4 Farmers and coop technical advisors.
This communal approach is designed to overcome typically high dropout rates and barriers to markets for new beekeepers, who often do not have the resources or support they need to build a new line of business. To help these entrepreneurs bring their products successfully to market, Food 4 Farmers and Root Capital have teamed up with COPIASURO, a Guatemalan honey cooperative, whose expertise in extracting honey and other bee products, marketing, and distribution can help boost Maya Ixil’s opportunities for long-term success.
With Root Capital financing, Maya Ixil will provide a startup resource package and a small loan to participating farmers, helping them acquire equipment and supplies necessary to make it on their own. Loan repayment will be tied to incremental income associated with the new venture to avoid over-indebtedness.
Root Capital plans to replicate this model in other coffee-growing communities affected by rust in Latin America by working with Heifer International as its implementing partner. Heifer’s technical advisors are now being trained by Food 4 Farmers alongside Maya Ixil technical advisors and members, so they can replicate this innovative program.
In Guatemala, farmers who are producing honey can earn more than the national minimum wage from beekeeping alone. Imagine the implications for a rust-affected farmer who has to keep up with household expenses, including food, while investing many working days in farm renovation and rehabilitation activities that will not produce income for three to five years.

What You Can Do to Help
You can help build more innovative food security programs, like this one, by donating at www.food4farmers.org. If your company would like to sponsor a project, or you’d like to help get the word out about how to take action against seasonal hunger in coffee-growing communities, please contact us directly.

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