Fighting Food Insecurity with Beekeeping, Mushrooms, Compost and Gardens.
In June 2010, the first Foro de Seguridad Alimentaria (Food Security Workshop)  was convened by  Sustainable Harvest Specialty Coffee Importers at Selva Negra, a large coffee estate in Nicaragua.  
The Foro was a hands-on workshop focused on four themes to help small-scale coffee farmers overcome months every year (known as “los meses flacos” or “the thin months) when they cannot maintain their normal diet.  The 4 areas of focus for this workshop are: family gardens, beekeeping, mushrooms, and the preparation of organic compost.  Over 60 farmers and technical assistants from throughout Latin America participated, taking what they learned back to  their co-ops, neighbors, and others in their communities.
To read more about the workshops and see more pictures view Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) blogs on the topic here.

The Allwin Initiative for  Corporate Citizenship at the Tuck School of Business 
The Allwin Initiative has been a big supporter of the work on food security in the coffeelands. Along with GMCR, they have funded these activities:  
  • In 2008, four bilingual students from the Tuck School (Allwin Initiative) helped Rick Peyser share the results of the CIAT interviews at meetings with the small-scale farmers who participated in the research.  In addition to sharing the information they also helped facilitate some brain storming sessions during the meetings.  Tuck covered all of the air expenses; GMCR covered the on-the-ground expenses 
  • In 2009 the Allwin Initiative helped fund a Tuck intern who spent 10 weeks in rural Nicaragua working with farmers to better understand their challenges and to help them plan for developing alternative sources of income. 
  • In 2010 the Allwin Initiative helped fund another Tuck intern who spent approximately 8 weeks in rural Nicaragua.  The purpose of this trip was to generate proposals to help small-scale coffee farmers generate additional income from sources other than coffee.  
The work of the the Tuck School has been excellent, and has resulted in some valuable contributions to the understanding and the projects focusing on “the thin months.” 

Organic School Garden in Guatemala
In the Winter of 2010, Pueblo a Pueblo, an organization that helps to improve the lives of indigenous Guatemalans, broke ground on an organic garden in Santiago Atitalan, Guatemala at Escuela Mixta Rural de Panabaj  school.  
Through a two year pilot project grant, they seek to teach 500 children in the Escuela Mixta Rural de Panabaj about organic gardening and basic nutrition. They will help the school community increase food supplies through education and diversification of crops to include foods with higher nutritional values.
Their food security efforts teach children and their families ways to avoid food shortages and increase nutrition, while our development projects also support educational opportunities and improve family health. Read more about the project on their blog.

“Passing on the Gift” in the Sierra Madre of Chiapas

With support from Heifer International, communities of small organic coffee producers in southern Mexico are developing effective, sustainable methods of diversifying their sources of food and income – reducing their dependence on coffee for their livelihood.  Families in the CESMACH (Campesinos Ecol√≥gicos de la Sierra Madre de Chiapas) cooperative are now farming fish, raising livestock, cultivating mushrooms, and producing organic honey – both for improved nutrition and for selling in local markets.

Through a participatory approach, Heifer helps communities assess their own unique challenges and then empowers them with the resources and support most appropriate for their specific needs and conditions.  In this project, entrepreneurial beekeepers have developed a robust honey operation, and by the end of the harvest each household is expected to have earned extra (non-coffee) income of $4,500 to $6,000.  Through Heifer's cornerstone of “Passing on the Gift”, where each participant agrees to share equivalent resources with another family in need, the Flor de Caf√© (“Coffee Flower”) group has grown to more than 50 families from 10 communities, and is expected to produce over 9 tons of honey in the next cycle.  Others are passing-on animals, seedlings, skills and training, ensuring the benefits of the project are shared from family to family.

Heifer’s agro-ecological methods work to promote both the conservation and preservation of natural resources – critical here in the mountainous highlands of the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, where CESMACH communities are located.

This work is now being scaled up to benefit more communities in this area and in other coffee-producing regions where Heifer works, including Peru and Honduras.  Read more about Heifer’s work to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth – in coffee communities and beyond by clicking here.