How your bag of coffee can help farmers like Rolando Lopez

by Michelle Flandreau | September 29, 2016
HOME Farm to Cup How your bag of coffee can help farmers like Rolando Lopez

“It is our hope. It is our whole culture.”

For Rolando Javier Lopez Angel, coffee is everything.

“Coffee is where our sustenance comes from,” he said. “If there is no production, then we are dying. We live in crisis.”

For decades, Rolando Lopez’s family has produced coffee in the Mexican state of Chiapas. The region is known for producing high-quality, arabica coffee. But his farm has been hit hard by coffee’s biggest enemy — coffee rust. This devastating fungus attacks the leaves of a coffee tree. It causes them to fall off, stops photosynthesis and ultimately kills the tree.

“It caught us off guard. Suddenly we saw the coffee fields losing their leaves very rapidly and within a year, we saw the fields totally devastated,” Rolando Lopez said.

It’s a story that’s all too common in Chiapas and many other coffee-producing regions. In some parts of Central America, coffee production has dropped by anywhere from 30 to 50 percent due to aging trees and coffee rust. When farmers are producing less, it can have a serious impact on their family.

“Those of us who had children in school, in the university, we had to pull them out because we couldn’t afford it anymore. We had to let go workers in the coffee plantations because we had to cut costs with the situation,” Rolando Lopez said. He says some even decided to emigrate to the United States.

We couldn’t stand by and watch this happen. So we made a commitment and partnered with Conservation International. For every bag of coffee sold in participating Starbucks® stores in the U.S., one new rust-resistant coffee tree will be provided to farmers in places impacted by coffee rust, including Chiapas, Mexico*.

Coffee farmer Rolando Lopez hands a coffee tree to his son at his coffee farm. 
Coffee farmer Rolando Lopez hands a coffee tree to his son at his coffee farm.
Coffee trees growing at a nursery in Chiapas for distribution to coffee farmers in the area. 
Coffee trees growing at a nursery in Chiapas for distribution to coffee farmers in the area.

One year ago on National Coffee Day, we began our One Tree for Every Bag Commitment*. With your help, we’ve donated enough funds to plant 18 million rust-resistant coffee trees, 10 million of which have already been distributed to impacted farmers. As a result, 2,500 hectares of coffee farms have been restored. Rolando Lopez is one of thousands of farmers who have received new trees. He says it gives him hope that in a few years, they might be able to produce again.

“We are very thankful to those people who can purchase a pound or two of Starbucks coffee. They are contributing to the production of coffee in Chiapas,” Rolando Lopez said. “In this way, we can support our families.”

Coffee farmer Rolando Lopez is shown with his family, from left, sons Moises, Rony, and wife Maria at his farm.
Coffee farmer Rolando Lopez is shown with his family, from left, sons Moises, Rony, and wife Maria at his farm.

See for yourself what more than 3 million bags of coffee can do.

This is just a fraction of the coffee trees we’ve been able to provide, thanks to you and your love of coffee. Nearly 3.5 million trees were grown at this coffee tree nursery in Jaltenango, Chiapas, Mexico. They were distributed to coffee farmers in the area beginning in May 2016.

*Starbucks will donate $0.70, the average cost of a coffee tree, to Conservation International for every bag of coffee sold from participating Starbucks® stores in the U.S. to foster thriving coffee communities. To learn more, visit conservation.org/onetree.

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