Monday, January 6, 2014

Update on the Roya fungus in the coffee. by Jody Slocum

I met with Franklin of As Green As It Gets in Antigua (the group we export coffee with). He said that the fungus Roya has been very destructive in the Antigua area. It has been worse in lower altitudes.  Many of the farmers of AGAIG’s farms are at these lower altitudes. In some places the coffee plants have been wiped out. The fungus lives in the soil and can live for 2.5 years (?). So the first year the leaves fall off and the second year when the new leaves begin to grow it effects those and they fall off killing the coffee trees. Coffee takes at least 4 years to be productive so if these farmers replant they are looking at 4-6 years with no income. He said it’s the end of some varieties. There are more resistant varieties but all are effected. Franklin is encouraging some of these farmers not to replant coffee but instead to change to banana, macadamia and other crops. 

Last year the Guatemala government allocated a lot of money to get information and copper spray out to the farmers but all the people Franklin works with never received any information or aid.

In Santiago Atitlan after giving out the scholarships, I brought up Roya with the group. There were just a handful of farmers there. None of them knew anything about Roya. They have it, it’s impacting their crops but they didn’t know about what it was or the spraying that can be done. I told them I was heading up to La Democracia to see the farmers at UPC and invited one to go along. They asked if two could go and so our traveling group has grown.  There is a farmer from AGAIG going, Andy the director of AGAIG, a volunteer, and a couple that own a coffee shop. It should be an interesting trip!

It’s amazing to think that we only learned of Roya last year and it has moved this quickly. We are witnessing a devastating change in Central America and many farmers and their families will suffer. F2F can help out the people we work with in Santiago Atitlan and Honduras by helping them get the information, training and supplies needed to treat their coffee. But the future seems more uncertain than usual here.
When you drive through the mountains in Guatemala the major crop is coffee.

The scholarships giving went well. The group spoke about the help being a motivation to work harder and to stay in school. Francisco gave me a folder full of school papers with the grades of the students. I got a photo of all of the kids present. I spoke with some of the kids and will visit with more tomorrow. I gave out a pen to each student and their parents and brought biscuits to share at the end.  
I am struck once again by how hard working and optimistic these people are.

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