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In coffee growing areas of Central America, seasonal hunger is a common problem. While coffee farming provides families with income for several months of the year, the harvest cycle followed by rainy season leaves some families without food or income for five to seven months. These are known as the “thin months.”
In a bold move to fight seasonal hunger in coffee producing countries, five coffee industry leaders – Counter Culture Coffee, Farmer Brothers, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. (NASDAQ: GMCR), Starbucks Coffee Company (NASDAQ: SBUX) and Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers – have come together to form the Coffeelands Food Security Coalition. In partnership with the global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps and the Nicaraguan organization Asociación “Aldea Global” Jinotega, these companies will help coffee farming families in Jinotega Department – the source of 60 percent of Nicaragua’s coffee – combat seasonal hunger.
“Working with coffee producing families in Indonesia and Guatemala, we have seen the tremendous day-to-day challenges of the ‘thin months,’” said Kathy Fry, regional program director for Mercy Corps. “We have a long-standing relationship with Aldea Global; they are an important local partner, and well-positioned to address the issue of hunger and poverty in the heart of the coffee value chain. Together, we will strive to ensure these coffee farmers have the knowledge, tools and resources to feed their families year-round.”
The three-year Empowering Food Secure Communities program will work with 150 women and their families to help them improve farming and business techniques, develop additional sources of income through home gardens and diversified crop production as well as engage more effectively with local government to provide assistance to the hungriest families.
Increased crop yields and diversified economic opportunities will support household consumption during the “thin months,” and will allow farmers to earn more income by selling surplus produce in the local market. Farmers will participate in educational sessions on financial literacy, pest management, crop rotation, micro-irrigation, water and soil conservation, as well as proper storage and handling techniques. The Empowering Food Secure Communities program will also strive to achieve gender equality in the traditionally male-dominated culture by promoting gender education, improving women’s access to credit and identifying business opportunities at local markets.