In a few minutes I will leave the swelter of Managua and drive to the cool shade of the coffeelands overlooking Matagalpa. Dozens of smallholder coffee farmers from across Mexico and Central America have gathered there for a four-day workshop dedicated to something other than coffee: how to reduce hunger in the coffeelands.
The Food Security Solutions event is being convened by Sustainable Harvest and funded by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and includes four workshops that have the potential to help farmers increase incomes, improve diets or both.
While the concept of “honey coffee” may have only recently been introduced in the marketplace, farmers have long appreciated the benefits of beekeeping on household economies in the coffeelands: bees produce honey that generates income for smallholder farmers, and increase coffee quality and productivity through their cross-pollination of coffee flowers.
- Soil fertility.
Unlike conventional farming, in which agrochemicals are applied to feed the coffee plant, organic farming feeds the soil in which coffee is grown. Smallholder farmer organizations are perennially searching for ways to increase the quantity and quality of their organic fertilizers to increase productivity, especially as the demand for certified organic coffee continues to rise.
From Mexico to Zimbabwe, coffee farmers are using the pulp from their mills as fertilizer for mushrooms that represent both a high-protein supplement to family diets and an opportunity for increasing household income through their sale in the marketplace.
- Family gardens.
The connection between hunger and family gardens that produce high-nutrient vegetables and medicinal herbs is probably self-explanatory. What may not be evident is the gender implications of this activity: gardens adjacent to the home — sometimes called kitchen gardens, patio gardens, etc. — can be managed by women whose domestic duties keep them close to the home. Because women are overwhelmingly the people who prepare food and feed children in this part of the world, kitchen gardens tend to be a woman-run affair from seed to plate.
In addition to these four workshops, the event includes a number of plenary events for all participants, including a panel discussion on climate change featuring organizations participating in the Coffee Under Pressure (CUP) project: CIAT, CRS and CECOCAFEN.
More from Selva Negra — the coffee farm–resort–reserve in Matagalpa where Food Security Solutions is being held — as the event unfolds.