Thursday 18 August 2022

GUATEMALA – A family weathers the coffee rust crisis

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GUATEMALA CITY – Idalia López and Moisés Ramírez are Guatemalan smallholder farmers whose livelihoods have been devastated by Coffee Rust.

Like millions of other Central American families, Coffee Rust destroyed their coffee plants. Idalia and Moses felt its effects immediately, especially since Idalia is a diabetic and needs monthly medical attention that costs approximately US$190.

From 300 Pound Harvests to 60

In 2013 Coffee Rust nearly destroyed their entire harvest, merely collecting 60 pounds of grain, the cash equivalent of 420 quetzals (about US$54). In better times the average harvest yielded 300 pounds of “pergamin” coffee, which ensured the family would eat for a year.

“Our coffee production gives us the means to provide for our family, with these poor earnings we are only able to buy a little bit of corn,” said Idalia. “And that’s not enough for us to survive another harvest … imagine,” she stressed

Shortage of Crops and Job Opportunities

In addition to farming their small plot of land, Idalia and Moisés work as day labourers on neighbouring larger coffee plantations. Their livelihoods depend on these temporary jobs as much as on their farming.

But the plague of Coffee Rust affected their employers. With the loss of crops on farms, the need for day laborers has also decreased.

Idalia Receives Monetary Assistance and Food

The situation of Idalia, Moisés and their children began to take a favourable turn when the Guatemalan Government included them within an assistance programme for families affected by Coffee Rust implemented by WFP, which receives funding from the European Commission.

With a generous donation of US$250,000, WFP provides food assistance in coordination with the Government of Guatemala to 1,200 households in three communities of the San Marcos Department: El Quetzal, La Reforma and El Tumbador.

Admission to the programme means that Idalia and Moses can provide for their family. With the first cash transfer of 697 quetzals (US$93) they were able to buy nutritious food and pay for Idalia’s diabetic treatment.

Idalia and Moses are confident that soon they will have a better harvest in their plot and will no longer need food assistance for which they are grateful to the European Commission, the Government of Guatemala and WFP.

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