Empowering Food Secure Communities

By Amanda Cooper

Coffeelands Food Security Project Participant

In 2012, six coffee companies – Counter Culture, Farmer Brothers, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc., S&D Coffee, Starbucks and Sustainable Harvest- joined forces to form the Coffeelands Food Security Coalition to address seasonal hunger in coffee growing communities.                                                       

Partnering with Mercy Corps and the Nicaraguan organization Aldea Global, a 3 year program known as  “Empowering Food Secure Communities” was launched that will target 150 women and their families to improve farming and business methods in order to support food security and healthier livelihoods in coffee growing communities.

In July, Rick Peyser, who leads the Supply Chain Outreach team focused on coffee and other agricultural products, visited the project in Jinotega, Nicaragua and had the opportunity to visit four different groups of women who had received small loans to launch their own businesses. This initiative was provided by Aldea Global’s Grupos de Desarollo Empresarial con Mujeres (GDEM) program, a part of the Coffeelands Food Security Coalition funded project.  The first two groups visited were women in their first loan cycle, and the last two groups visited were women in their third loan cycle.

The first visit was to Grupo Padre Odorico, a group of women growing lettuce and cucumbers. The women regularly monitored the market price via cellphone before agreeing to sell their product to a buyer, a clear sign of effective business management. Although the women are in the first loan cycle and still cautious about the success of their efforts, they were clearly pleased at the opportunity to have their own business.

The next group was also on their first loan cycle, consisting of 6 women focused on growing coffee on their own land thanks to the project. The women have obtained financing to purchase inputs like fertilizer, foliar spray, seedlings, and other items needed to fight La Roya epidemicLand ownership for women is not common, and having a title to their land will provide them with many benefits, including the ability to obtain loans, since their land can serve as required collateral.  Although the group is new, they are clearly gaining confidence and self-esteem.

The third group visited was Agua Viva, a group of 5 women in their third loan cycle. Once again, the clear difference in confidence levels between these women in their third loan cycle and women in their first loan cycle was evident. These women were very motivated to grow their small businesses with a focus on producing tamales, buying/selling fish, and producing grains. The income obtained from their businesses was helpful in diversifying the family’s livelihoods in order to protect them from shocks to the coffee market that may affect their income. As each loan cycle was repaid, the women were once again eligible to receive more credit to expand their businesses. The credit is accompanied by training on cash flow management for the women provided by Aldea Global.

The last group visited was Mujeres Agriculturas. The group, also in their third loan cycle and with a similar magnitude of motivation, grew corn and squash to sell into the local market. Pleased by their progress and showcasing confidence, the women were already planning new crops they would plant. This project also provided their families with additional income from crops other than coffee.

The visit also provided Rick with insight into the credit process, which took into account each participant’s cash flow, assets, and activities at the household level, in order to determine the right loan amount to be granted.

The visit to the projects was a powerful opportunity to see the ongoing work of the Coffeelands Food Security Coalition‘s first project, and to understand the key challenges and opportunities in establishing long-term sustainability and growth. Most importantly, the project is empowering participants to provide healthier livelihoods for their families

Learn more about the Coffeelands Food Security Coalition and the battle against season hungry in the coffeelands at: http://www.mercycorps.org/tags/coffeelands

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