In recognition of  National Farmers Day today in the US, we wanted to highlight one of the most pernicious problems facing farmers across coffee-growing countries: hunger. Because most coffee is harvested annually, the families of coffee farmers struggle to make their annual payout last the entire year. This annual payout is roughly equivalent to $2,342 per 2-hectare farmer, according to the Specialty Coffee Chronicle. This leads to seasonal hunger, which is such a pervasive part of coffee farming that in Central America it has the name los meses flacos, the lean months.

farmers who experience seasonal hunger

Courtesy of SCAA

According to Fresh Cup Magazine, back in 2014 the SCAA’s sustainability council issued a whitepaper on food security. They included a summary of studies on the problem in Central America and the Dominican Republic. Throughout the study regions they concluded:

  • more than 60 percent of households surveyed said they experienced food insecurity during the year
  • of the six studies, four reported the rate as above 80 percent

Young people are leaving coffee

Although they work very hard year round, most smallholder farmers are barely scratching out a living wage. They face a variety of challenges such as changing climate, an inconsistent cash flow, an erratic coffee market, and inadequate access to land to produce enough to support a family.

The result is that the next generation is largely deciding that staying on the farm isn’t worth their time. Coffee Kids creates economic opportunities for young farmers who want to continue farming coffee in their communities.

Coffee Kids’ support for supplemental incomes

Annual incomee of a coffee farmer Coffee Kids believes that by empowering young coffee farmers with business skills, mentoring, and funding to start their own supplemental businesses so they can secure steady year-round income allowing them to continue coffee farming in their communities. We are on track to reaching 260 young farmers in Central America, Colombia, and Tanzania through our Rural Business Workshops by the end of 2016.

Learn more

To walk through the shoes of a young coffee farmer torn about whether to continue in coffee, check out our video from 2013, The Lean Months. The story is told by Salomón Vidal, a young farmer who tries to find a reason to continue farming coffee just as his father and his grandmother did. We see how his family in rural Veracruz, Mexico, watches their income from coffee farming dwindle until there is nothing left.