By Amy Hansen

Members of the El Polo and El Gorrión farming cooperatives in Nicaragua had a challenge. They were losing up to 40 percent of their crops due to the impact of “La Roya,” or Coffee Rust Disease, and losing the ability to support their families and communities. But El Polo and El Gorrión are part of Keurig Green Mountain’s supply chain in Nicaragua, and with the coffee giant’s support, PCI’s MICASA project is helping improve the health and productivity of these 850 farming families.

PCI agricultural technical specialists, like Franklin Rivera (pictured above), work with coffee producers to help them better understand how to manage their farms in order to improve yields and produce quality coffee. To combat this La Roya, PCI has helped farmers plant two new coffee varietals which are resistant to the disease and well-suited to the climate of the region. The farmers are also adopting farming techniques such as integrated crop management to improve plant nutrition and control pests. Over the past year, PCI has helped cooperative members plant over 300 manzanas (522 acres) of these new varietals on their farms, which are expected to increase yields six-fold over the next four years.

One tool that we have been using with great success under this project is the Farm Diagnostic and Evaluation Tool, which was developed and effectively utilized by PCI under its United States Department of Agriculture-funded Food for Progress project from 2008-2012. Taught as part of PCI’s Farmer Field School hands-on learning methodology, this tool teaches coffee producers how to take a holistic view of their farms and use information for improved decision-making and performance. This tool helps farmers understand and analyze the relative strengths and weaknesses of their farm’s natural assets and develop management plans that maximize crop production and proper stewardship of those assets, with the ultimate goal of improved farm management.

With PCI’s support, Lorenzo Chavarría, coffee producer from El Gorrión cooperative (pictured above) applied the tool to his own farm, which helped him to identify inefficiencies that explained his high production costs. PCI’s agricultural technical specialists helped him to adopt new practices to address these inefficiencies, such as providing more targeted fertilization techniques, conducting soil analysis to pinpoint the specific pests affecting his plantation, and renovating under-performing parcels. As a result of the changes he implemented, Lorenzo increased his yields by an astounding 150 percent and reduced his production costs by 47 percent – which more than quadrupled his yearly net income. His story is just one of the many success stories of coffee producers who have benefitted from PCI’s holistic approach to improved farm management.

Franklin Rivera has worked with PCI for the past eight years, and he is one of the many heroes helping PCI make a positive impact in the lives of millions around the world. He said, “what keeps me motivated to do my job day after day is seeing firsthand the impact of our work on the lives of these farmers and their families. We are equipping farmers with the knowledge and the tools they need to better manage their farms and ultimately improve their quality of life.”

Amy Hansen is a Senior New Business Development Officer for PCI.
Photo by Gesler Castillo