La Roya Epidemic Decimating Livelihoods Dependent on Coffee in Honduras

La Roya Epidemic Decimating Livelihoods Dependent on Coffee in Honduras

Please keep the people of Central America and FRB's Honduras Nueva Frontera Program in your thoughts and prayers as they struggle with how the Coffee Rust epidemic is affecting their livelihoods.

Central America is undergoing the worst Coffee Rust plague since 1976. The state of phytosanitary emergency (measures for the control of plant diseases) has been declared in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras.

The Coffee Rust Plague, also known as La Roya, is caused by a fungus that affects the leaves and destroys crops and plants. Once it attacks, the only option for most farmers is to destroy an entire coffee plantation to prevent the spread of the fungus. Affected farms will not yield coffee for another two or three years as it will take at least two years for seedlings to fully grow and produce coffee. Follow the link to a blog post from University of Minnesota – Extension for more information on the Coffee Rust epidemic.

In January, the government of Honduras declared a national emergency because of the Coffee Rust problem, which has affected a quarter of the nation's planted surface. Harvests are likely to decline by up to 30 to 40 percent in 2013-14 compared to 2011-12 levels. As the labor used to harvest the crop will not be needed – with some 1 million people employed in the coffee industry –Fewsnet, the United States Agency for International Development's Famine Early Warning System, predicts that food insecurity in Honduras will likely increase in 2014, especially among subsistence farmers and seasonal laborers. That could increase migratory pressures towards North America.

Seventy-five percent of the economy of Honduras´s department (or province) of Santa Barbara revolves around coffee. Coffee sales and sale of labor for coffee cutting are the most important source of income for the vast majority of the population and October is when the demand for labor normally begins.

Santa Barbara is the locale of FRB's Honduras Nueva Frontera Program, a five-year food security program targeting 426 families in 14 communities Church World Service (CWS) has initiated in partnership with partner Comision de Accion Social Menonita de Honduras, known as CASM, and Foods Resource Bank.

CWS and CASM staff recently visited affected communities in Santa Barbara and were able to witness first-hand the devastating effect of Coffee Rust in the fields. Staffers heard directly from families that public/private aid programs do not really reach the small and very small landholders and confirmed that pressures to migrate are growing.

The staff team was also able to see the enthusiasm and openness of local families to diversify their farms; expand and make more efficient use of their home vegetable gardens; pilot new livelihoods; work together; and maximize available resources. 

The next 12 months are crucial to strengthen coping mechanisms and support medium-term solutions for affected families that are not part of the ongoing CWS project.

CWS and partner CASM seek to assist 200 families (1,200 people) in Santa Barbara department who at very high risk of food insecurity due to short- and medium-term effects of the Coffee Rust plague, as families have primarily depended on the mono-crop of coffee for their livelihood. CASM has seen an increase and demand among families in this region for diversifying their farms and expanding their home gardens to provide a sustainable livelihood.

In the current CWS efforts, Santa Barbara families will receive vegetable seeds, plantain trees, aquaculture, chicken coops, help with improving agro-livestock production, agricultural inputs, nutritional education, access to alternative livelihoods and on-site technical assistance in creating integral farm practices and vegetable gardens.

Support the people of the Honduras-Nueva Frontera program.

11/19/2013 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment