Heifer International Senior Grant Writer Catherine Scott recently spent time in Honduras visiting some of our projects. Below, Catherine shares with us a little about her visit.
I wanted to come back to work with people in my own community Jonan Daniel, agricultural advisor.
Jonan Daniel is a young, enthusiastic, and highly trained agricultural advisor whose role is to visit 60 RAOS Coffee Cooperative member families per month. As part of the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters partnership aimed at Improving the Sustainable Production and Food Systems of Small-Scale Organic Coffee Farming Families in Honduras, Daniel visits these families to ensure they are meeting not only their own family food security needs, but also to ensure they are receiving the necessary training in organic coffee production to meet the RAOS coffee co-op standards.
Since 2002, Heifer has had a valued corporate partnership with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR). Most recently, GMCR has partnered with Heifer International to provide income diversification for small holder family farmers in the coffee production supply chain in Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala and Nicaragua. After the coffee harvest, farmers have a hard time making ends meet. This period, from April to September, is called the thin months when it becomes necessary to find another source of income. This is where Heifer comes in. We are working with families who supply coffee to GMCR to help the farmers through the thin months. By providing livestock, seeds, training and equipment, the farmers are able to better sustain their families and produce an income throughout the year.
Harvested coffee beans.
GMCR works with the RAOS co-op in Honduras. RAOS vision is to produce healthy, ecologically sustainable food but also to gain a just life for its members. They want to be able to share the fruits of their labor amongst member families and the wider community. Their work is conducted in harmony with nature, while working towards economic, social, physical, and spiritual health.
The co-op started with just 16 men and 4 women. Over the past few years, the co-op has grown to include 123 families (200 individuals); they receive 10-20 applications for membership per week! Accountability was also readily apparent, with an elected co-op board that includes a specific Gender Committee to ensure the inclusion of women.
Preparing the coffee for shipment.
Why does RAOS exist? Because its producers know that there can be strength in numbers. Without the co-op working to secure fair trade pricing, the coffee producers and cutters (those who harvest the beans) are at the mercy of the buyers. An average 100 lb bag of beans fetches a price of $6/bag. A fair trade bag? That garners the producer $20/bag. In a country where many people exist on less than $2/day, getting fair trade prices makes a huge difference in a familys income.
During the project site visit, several Heifer staff members tried their hand at harvesting the beans. Within a 30 minute period, we harvested a paltry sum. Many jokes ensued over how many Americans it takes to harvest a single coffee plant! Our host, and one of the original members of RAOS, teased us that he had a quota and if we didnt meet it, we couldnt leave the farm! In contrast to our untrained hands, a skilled cutter can harvest 250 lbs of coffee per day. It is back-breaking work.
RAOS co-op president with eggs from
his Heifer chickens.
When we asked Daniel why he had returned when so many young adults leave the rural areas, he replied simply that he grew up in this area harvesting coffee. Now, by working with Green Mountain Coffee Roaster and Heifer International he has the opportunity and the training to Pass on the Gift to members of his own community. Through this partnership, families in the RAOS co-op (and others in Honduras) have a better chance at moving beyond subsistence and creating strong economic futures for their children.