More than half of Central America’s coffee farms are infected with the coffee leaf fungus, which weakens and eventually kills coffee trees.
The current outbreak of the fungus in Central America and northern Peru is the worst in at least 40 years and resulted in losses of $1 billion during last year's harvest alone. The outbreak coincides with warm, wet weather in the region; declining coffee production has been termed the canary in the coal mine of climate change.
To address the crisis, Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers recently convened the Let's Talk Roya conference. La Roya is the Spanish name for coffee leaf rust.
At the conference, Root Capital, a nonprofit agricultural lender, announced a public-private initiative that will fund $10 million in investments in in coffee farmers at the base of the supply chain in areas affected by the fungus. The coalition launching the initiative includes the Vermont-based Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, as well as the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the InterAmerican Development Bank and the Skoll Foundation.
“The largest-ever partnership between the organizations combines long-term lending to finance the replacement of diseased coffee trees affected by the fungal disease with short-term trade credit, financial management training, climate-smart agronomic assistance and household-level income diversification,” Root Capital stated in a press release. “The $7 million initiative will allow Root Capital to lend more than $10 million for resilience investments, and provide financial management training, to 50 agricultural enterprises representing 40,000 farmers, reaching approximately 200,000 family members in farming communities in Latin America.”
The initiative officially was launched by Root Capital with a $2 million loan to SOPPEXCCA, a 650-member coffee farmer cooperative in Nicaragua. The loan will enable cooperative members to renovate affected farms by replacing dead coffee trees with rust-resistant varietals.
“Root Capital’s Coffee Farmer Resilience Initiative is a holistic approach that responds to the current crisis while investing in rural enterprises’ ability to maintain consumer supply in the face of growing shocks from climate change and volatile commodity markets,” says Willy Foote, CEO of Root Capital. “The initiative is a blueprint for agricultural supply chain sustainability that creates shared value for farmers, buyers and consumers.”
“We depend on a long-term supply of high-quality beans for our business,” said Lindsey Bolger of Green Mountain Coffee. “This investment will provide coffee farming families with the tools and capacity they need to more successfully confront threats to their coffee and their livelihoods, through greater long-term resilience at the cooperative and household level.”
This article originally appeared on SocialFunds.com. Image of coffee beans by Tech Savi via Flickr