Burlington, Vermont – Vermont-based nonprofit Food 4 Farmers is working with Root Capital, a nonprofit social investment fund, on an innovative new program to promote commercial beekeeping as an alternative source of income for small-scale coffee farmers. The program was launched under Root Link, a three-year initiative designed to strengthen the financial management of smallholder producer organizations, and is now being expanded under the program’s region-wide Coffee Farmer Resilience Initiative.
Over the next two years, Food 4 Farmers – which focuses on addressing food security issues in coffee growing communities – will provide small coffee farmers with the skills required for beekeeping, working with the Maya Ixil coffee cooperative in Guatemala. As part of the program, coop members will first receive comprehensive training in all aspects of beekeeping. With ongoing training and support from the coop’s technical advisors, these newly trained beekeepers will have the tools and know-how to cultivate honey on their own farms, providing an additional household income stream. More than 100 farmers will participate in the program, designed to overcome the typically high rates of attrition and barriers to market access among new beekeepers. The program will help small farmers bring honey products successfully to market, increasing their opportunities for long-term prosperity through income diversification, since income from coffee alone has not been sufficient to put food on the table year round for most small-scale coffee farming families.
Along with technical assistance, Maya Ixil will provide a startup resource package and a small loan to participating farmers to help them acquire necessary equipment and supplies. Loan repayment will be tied to incremental income associated with the new venture, to avoid risk of over-indebtedness.
Tyler Clark, Root Capital’s global director of Financial Advisory Services, says, “This program is intended to give farmers a chance to diversify their portfolio of income-producing investments at the farm-level as a mechanism for risk management and improved economic resilience.”
Following the pilot period, Root Capital plans to replicate the commercial beekeeping model in other coffee-growing communities affected by coffee rust throughout Latin America.
Rick Peyser, founder and Board chair of Food 4 Farmers, says, “We’re proud to work with Root on this innovative program to help small-scale coffee producers and their families overcome the many challenges they face at the household level.” The growing number of obstacles producers must overcome includes seasonal hunger that has persisted for decades, climate change adaptation, access to potable water, and access to healthcare. “These issues are too large and too numerous for any single organization to solve by itself,” adds Peyser. “This project is a great example of a collaborative mindset and approach, and we believe it will successfully move the needle.”
Food 4 Farmers facilitates the implementation of sustainable food security programs in coffee-growing communities by partnering with coffee-farming families, cooperatives, and community-based organizations to identify challenges, resources, and strategies to build long-term solutions to hunger.
For more information, contact Janice Nadworny, Co-Director, Food 4 Farmers at Janice@food4farmers.org, or 802 482-6868.