In the past few years, coffee rust, a fungal disease that affects coffee plants, has caused up to 80 percent losses for coffee farmers in El Salvador and Central America. Looking to rehabilitate the sector by introducing rust-resistant coffee plants, NCBA CLUSA, with funds from USDA, is implementing the Coffee Rehabilitation and Agricultural Diversification project in El Salvador. Over the course of five years, the project will support 5,000 coffee growers, both individually and as members of cooperatives, to overcome the crisis and rebuild the coffee sector.
In partnership with local public, private and cooperative organizations, NCBA CLUSA signed ten Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) last fall to work to stem the losses from coffee rust. The organizations included exporters, quality experts, local coffee co-ops and others interested in supporting the sector in El Salvadaor.
“Our project will not make political or economic distinctions when giving support to growers. We will work with anyone willing to face and overcome this crisis of the coffee sector in El Salvador,” said Stanley Kuehn, NCBA CLUSA’s project Chief of Party, during his opening remarks at the MOU signing ceremony. “We cannot allow coffee to lose the quality that has characterized El Salvador for so many years.”
Kuehn also underlined the Project’s commitment to respect the Salvadoran Environmental Law in order to protect, preserve, and recover the forest ecosystem.
“This commitment to the environment encourages us to promote organic practices for crops. We will work to ensure that growers learn to incorporate environmentally friendly practices through the manufacture and use of organic inputs in their farms,” Kuehn said. After the ceremony, attendees were invited to tour the organic input factory of Las Lajas cooperative to see first hand some of the best practices in organic processing.
Also in attendance were Miguel Herrera, USDA representative in El Salvador, and Orestes Ortez, El Salvador’s Minister of Agriculture and Livestock as well as current partners including Banco Hipotecario and CENTA-Café, with which NCBA CLUSA is currently working in order to build partnerships for the benefit of the sector.
Minister Ortez also addressed the event attendants and committed to working hand-in-hand with NCBA CLUSA in order to join efforts and continue supporting growers across the country. Working with the private sector, government and international partners, the El Salvador coffee sector has real potential to bounce back.