Destroying Coffee Harvests, One Field at a Time: The Impact and Implications of Roya

Kerry Huang, UPenn/Wharton

Abstract

Unión MicroFinanza (UMF) is a nonprofit organization in La Unión, Lempira, Honduras that provides microfinance and refinance services to coffee farmers. To achieve the goal of improving rural communities and local conditions, UMF runs agricultural training programs, organizes community development projects, and purchases coffee beans from farmers for export to the United States. In the 2012-2013 season, their chief concern was “roya,” a coffee leaf rust. To evaluate roya’s devastating impact on local farmers, three studies, detailed in this paper, were completed. First, self-reported data was gathered from 104 farmer applications to assess coffee conditions and specific situations farmers faced. Second, harvest amounts were gathered from these farmers to compare changes between two consecutive seasons. Third, six qualitative interviews were conducted to better understand the farmers’ lifestyle habits and hardships. Results indicated that roya had a widespread effect on 80% of the community, with a minimum of three years before fields would fully be recovered. Almost all farmers were not educated about roya prior to or during the epidemic, and most are still undergoing training. Finally, like any portfolio or financial analysis that involves risk, diversification plays an important role in making decisions. These factors play a key role in assessing how what actions should be taken to drive improvement in La Unión.

 

Date Posted: 14 January 2014