The Roya Recovery Project is a safe, organic, sustainable strategy driven by coffee-farming communities to halt the debilitating effects of the coffee fungus “la roya.”
La roya (“the rust” in Spanish) is a fungus that eats away at the leaves of coffee plants, preventing them from flowering or producing coffee beans. In recent years, the fungus has devastated coffee production in Central America. While common to low lying regions, the fungus has spread to higher altitudes where coffee is grown. Many experts point to climate change as increasing temperatures allow the fungus to thrive at cooler, higher altitudes. Small-scale coffee farmers have lost up to 75% of their coffee crops to the fungus, deeply impacting coffee farming families that are already vulnerable to poverty, along with the fluctuating market of the coffee economy.
Farmers are now recovering lost coffee production and ensuring the health of future harvests by using long-term, cost-effective strategies to combat the fungus, replenish soils, improve the overall health of small scale farms, and bolster the livelihoods of these communities.
Effective Microorganisms (EMs) are like probiotics for plants, and they help improve soil quality and strengthen a plant’s immune response to disease. Coffee farmers make the EMs themselves, combining equal parts molasses and EM starter with water. The EMs are sprayed directly on to the coffee plants, and when partnered with organic farming techniques such as composting, cover cropping, and pruning, these EMs can eradicate la roya from the coffee plants! These farming methods are shared farmer to farmer, building trust and empowering communities.
“I had never received training in the field before, so since this project began I have improved the management techniques of my coffee plantation. I have practiced pruning and use shade management. Although I have 30 years of experience with coffee, I am learning and improving thanks to The Coffee Trust. Despite the coffee rust, the plantation’s leaves have improved and the plantation has flourished, especially the sprouts I am pruning. The EMs are eradicating the rust.”
-Francisco Ramírez, Roya Recovery Project Participant
Asociación Chajulense, the coffee cooperative we work with in the Ixil region of Guatemala, produced 11 containers in 2014. In 2016 they nearly doubled this amount.
The Coffee Trust is a nonprofit organization that works to help coffee farmers overcome poverty in their communities through grassroots programming in Education, Health, Food Sovereignty, Economic Diversification, and Roya Recovery. Learn more on our website.