Since our last blog entry on Nicaragua we have been to the area to visit with the co-operatives and see how things are progressing. Here is some of the news from our visit.
Coffee Leaf Rust and the Nicaraguan Harvest
The coffee harvest in Nicaragua is over and farmers are breathing a sigh of relief that the negative effects of Coffee Leaf Rust are diminishing. The co-operatives and their co-operators, like Just Us!, have helped farmers retake control by replanting hundreds of thousands of trees, increasing fertilization, and stepping-up maintenance. Farmers have put in an amazing effort, and the worst is hopefully over.
While significant progress has been made and yields are not decreasing as fast as before, they have yet to rebound. Prodecoop, the large 2nd level co-op that Just Us! works with, saw yields decrease by 25% last year. This year yields decreased a further 10%. The healing will take time, as the newly planted trees need 3 years to start producing in earnest. Most important is that the spread of the fungus has been checked, and infected trees have been replaced with healthy ones.
Luis Alberto Vasquez
Just Us! works closely with two base cooperatives in Nicaragua, and Luis Alberto Vasquez is one of them. The Rust hit hard here. The coop is used to seeing harvests of 90,000 lbs. per year. Last year they harvested only 3,500 lbs. and this year 7,000.
The rebuilding is well underway, however. The co-op has used a $9000 grant from Just Us! to make 70,000 lbs. of organic fertilizer and replant their entire farm. Work brigades have been preparing the soil and replanting for the past 6 months, and half of the farm has now been completely replanted with 156,000 new coffee trees.
Teofilo Caesar Torrez Reyes, the president of the co-op, said of the recent planting: ‘We hit it!’ meaning that all of the pieces came together and the planting was a success. The co-op expects a big harvest in November, 2017.
Teofilo was only 17 years old when he came to this farm in 1983. Since then, he has worked collectively with the other owners to build a livelihood on coffee production. Luis Alberto Vasquez is showing that it certainly isn’t ready to give that up.