The first Quarter of the year has been a busy time for the Coffeelands Foundation.
We have funded a bee-keeping project in Chiapas, Mexico through our partners at Food 4 Farmers.
Honey production is a fairly low cost way for coffee farming communities to diversify their income during the thin months following coffee harvest.
A beekeeper with an average of 9 hives can reap income equivalent to a year's full-time work at minimum wage - for a fraction of the time investment.
We feel that this kind of approach to income diversity adds a layer of economic stability to the fluctuating uncertainty of coffee production.
Members of the coffee co-op, CESMACH, in Chiapas, Mexico are growing their bee-keeping capacity through on going training seminars and worker to worker support.
In Guatemala, the Coffeelands Foundation is supporting, through the Penny a Pound program, an innovative approach La Roya mitigation in partnership with The Coffee Trust and their La Roya Recovery Project.
Working with over 500 farmers from the Chajulense coffee co-operative in Quiche, Guatemala, The Coffee Trust is building a solid foundation of active management in coffee plots devastated by the coffee leaf rust using a probiotic spray, Effective Micro-organisms (EM's), to eradicate coffee rust on plant leaves and in the soil.
Going into it's 3rd year, the recovery project is seeing crop recovery and increased yields in some cases double over last year's harvest.
The backbone of the project is the EM's, however the real long term benefits will be realized through on going training in soil health management and plant maintenance.
If any good can be said to come out of the havoc of the rust fungus it is in bringing attention to the importance of healthy soil for healthy plants - that is true sustainability on the farming level.
Further South in Guatemala, among the coffee-growing communities bordering Lake Atitlan, Pueblo a Pueblo has been working to improve the health, education and food security for the families living there.
Their Organic School Garden project works with 11 gardens located next to schools and incorporates a hands-on gardening experience within the school's curriculum to provide students with life long lessons in growing food along with nutritious food for their school meals.
When we visited the Nueva Vida school in January, school had only been open one week. Nothing had been planted in the garden. Last week we visited again and the change was astonishing...lush, vibrant plants and herbs. Chilis, cucumbers, radishes, squash, corn, papayas and beans grew in profusion. The kids wanted me to see Chipilin, a tasty herb and Minta, mint - clearly enthused and engaged in this outdoor classroom.
The Organic School Garden project mirrors the renewed interest in local agriculture and gardening in schools across the US.
The Farm-To-School program, Urban farming, Community Gardens and many more programs reflect an interest in where our food is grown and having the ability to take some control over our food supply.
The school gardens around Lake Atitlan are one small part of this resurgence and the Coffeelands Foundation would like to see this model applied throughout coffee country. Education, nutrition, self-reliance, self confidence - all in one package.
We visited La Cumbre School which was one of the first gardens started with the help of Pueblo a Pueblo. 5 years old now, it is independant of the program, operating on its own resources.
The garden clearly demonstrated the kind of impact this program is having on rural schools. The School Gardens project is a collaboration of School, Muncipalities, parents, school staff and Pueblo's training staff.
It takes dedication and willingness on all participants to be successful. After 3 years of training and weekly staff visits Pueblo a Pueblo hopes that the gardens will be managed entirely by the school.
La Cumbre has achieved this and is growing in ways that is inspirational. They are completing a worm composting system that will greatly expand their soil building abilities and brings in community participation by trading kitchen scraps for compost. A win all around.
The projects we invest in through your contributions are small scale, grassroots development projects. They address needs identified by local communities. People who see things that work for their neighbors and want to do the same for themselves.
We believe that good, quality education is the foundation for permanent change and also recognize that there are immediate needs, like hunger, access to health care, income opportunities, complex social initiatives addressing inequities in society, water and sanitation needs, and back to quality education.
There are no quick fix solutions to these challenges. And we believe that working from community based programs is the best means for long term success.
Two programs we are beginning to support are also being managed by Pueblo a Pueblo. The first program is the Maternal/Child Health program that provides financial support, health care and education to pregnant moms and their soon to be born babies.
"Our Maternal Child Health project, initiated in 2006, was designed to give mothers and their children the medical and educational support they need to survive the most vulnerable periods of pregnancy and early childhood. Through the project, mothers receive full pre- and post-natal care and children receive free medical attention from birth until age five." - PUEBLO A PUEBLO
Getting off to a good start is the goal of the Maternal/Child Health program and we are proud to be able to support this worthwhile initiative. The project is managed by Vilma Mendoza, a native of Santiago de Atitlan. She works closely with the partner health clinic, Rxiin Tnamet, to provide community outreach skills and education to the women in the program.
The other project we are beginning to support is the Primary Education Scholarship program of Pueblo a Pueblo.
Nutritional education at La Provedencia School.
Keeping kids in school is a challenge. Over 40% of children do not finish the 6th grade in Guatemala, a country with a poverty rate over 75%.
The key to the future is always with education and we are proud to use the Penny a Pound program to help kids stay in school.
“It’s hard to grasp how important this support is for families,” says Johanny Quieju, the manager of Pueblo a Pueblo’s Primary Education Scholarships project, “until you understand that a typical coffee worker earns only $2 a day, but school materials in the beginning of the school year can cost up to $30 per child. What do parents do if they have four children?" Pueblo a Pueblo
These education scholarships will provide students with school supplies, free checkups and emergency care at the local health clinic, money to cover extra school expenses like field trips, gym clothes and uniforms.
This year Pueblo a Pueblo is starting a tutoring program to help kids in the program who are struggling in school.
Funds are administered through a teacher in the school so that there is assurance that the scholarships are spent where they are needed the most.
Since it's inception the program has seen a 98% retention rate with participating kids.
Johanny Quieju, the manager of the Primary Education Scholarship program is also a native of Santiago. She is well aware of the challenges local coffee growing families face, as well as the promise of a better future offered by Pueblo a Pueblo.
These are the updates on our projects for 2016.
Thank you for your continued support and I hope you can see by the work we are doing that the Coffeelands Foundation is having a positive impact in our coffee growing communities.
All the best,