Guatemala grows some of the best coffee in the world, but in 2012, the country was forced to declare a national emergency because of an outbreak of Hemileia vastatrix or coffee leaf rust. A full 70% of all coffee farms in Guatemala were affected by the disease.
In San Pedro Yepocapa, in the famous Antigua region, coffee farmers were especially hard hit by the outbreak in part due to the use of older, rust-susceptible coffee varieties. The severe reductions in farmer income exacerbated an already difficult economic situation: Yepocapa is the fourth poorest municipality in the country with a poverty rate of 73.9%. Nearly half of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition.
The use of new rust-resistant varieties is by far the most economical, effective and sustainable approach to revitalize family coffee farms and associated community livelihoods in Yepocapa.
Two varieties are being distributed to farmers: A new rust-resistant sarchimore type called Marsellesa, and an F1 hybrid variety called Centroamericano. Although the F1 varieties have been tested extensively in Central America over the past five years with excellent results, most small farmers are unaware of the new varieties or do not have easy access to them. Typically, F1 varieties are twice as expensive as traditional varieties such as Caturra.
Plants are being distributed to 339 farmers in six cooperatives that were affected by rust. Each farmer will receive enough seedlings for a 1/6 hectare test plot (a value of $280 per farmer), on which they can gain first-hand experience in managing these varieties and witness their higher performance and profitability.
The goal is to show farmers how the new varieties compare to their current varieties in their own fields. WCR and Anacafé will distribute 190,000 seedlings over two years and will organize and train the farmers.
Approximately $400 of additional income for each farmer the first year after transplanting, while allowing them to attract quality-demanding roasting companies who pay higher prices. By the end of the project, we expect a generated new income of $203,400 for all the beneficiaries.
We believe that, thanks to this project, within 2-3 years most farmers in San Pedro Yepocapa will be interested in further renovation with the improved varieties. WCR and Anacafé will be there to work with NGOs, exporters and coffee companies to support those efforts.