H.E.L.P. – Helping farmers help themselves
Small farms, small yields
H.E.L.P. is based in San Nicolas, a small town in the Departemente Santa Bárbara, the oldest coffee region in Honduras. The climate is good for coffee but the hilly landscape makes cultivation difficult. The infrastructure is poorly developed and many coffee plants are old and give low yields. For all these reasons, Santa Bárbara has the lowest productivity of any coffee region in Honduras, and is among the poorest.
All coffee production is by small family growers. The agricultural, ecological and business knowledge of these growers is limited, resulting in harvests that are far below average. This automatically leads to low sales revenue, which makes it very difficult for growers to improve their poor living and education conditions. This is the reason why interest in H.E.L.P.’s first information events was so great. Many growers signed up to take part in the project and contributed their individual wishes and ideas.
The project is managed and administered locally by responsible project agronomists. After an analysis of the farms, together with the participants the agronomists work up development plans targeting production, ecological and social improvement. Project participants receive ongoing training and learn different methods of coffee cultivation. To start with, soil samples are analysed in order to identify measures to improve the soil productivity of individual farms. Participants are taught effective methods of regenerative pruning and how to make solar dryers, steps which are easy to implement and which quickly give positive results.
The coffee growers participate actively, contribute their own suggestions, form groups and help each other out.
Michiel Kuit is an outside CSR expert who regularly visits and reports on the project. Soon after it launched, he said:
“the project is off to a good start, and the energetic team has already done good work. The great interest on the part of the coffee growers shows that H.E.L.P. has the right objectives.”
H.E.L.P. is now in its fourth year, and we are glad that, in addition to improvements in daily operations that have already resulted in greatly improved coffee quality, the motivation of all participants continues to grow.
During our first visit to Santa Bárbara at the start of the project, we met three H.E.L.P. participants whose progress we have since followed with special attention. Yolanda Paz, Melvin Izaguera and Nora Sogastume are great people and their stories provide examples of the different starting situations, challenges, expectations and wishes that H.E.L.P. addresses. It was impressive to see during our second visit how individual, sometimes small, quickly feasible changes could bring very positive results.
Señorita Paz was one of the first to sign up for H.E.L.P. in 2016. At that time she had just taken over a one-hectare coffee plantation from her father. It was not the usual scenario for a young, single woman living on a farm with her parents, siblings and other family members. The family was in debt to a middleman and had to pay it off year by year with the harvest. So she was in a difficult situation, which was not helped by her father’s scepticism as to whether she would be able to handle it. From the start Yolanda was highly motivated by the prospect of H.E.L.P. The long-term perspective was important to her, as was the ongoing individual assistance towards the goal of making good quality coffee and better harvests. This has succeeded beyond her expectations thanks to measures designed for her farm. Yolanda is a very active and ambitious participant in the project and hopes to achieve much more as a coffee grower. She is an example to others, and now has also earned the long-desired approval of her father.
When he signed up for H.E.L.P., Señor Izaguera was painfully aware of how little he knew about growing coffee. He cultivated his single hectare as well as he could, but it was far away from the house where he lived with his wife and two children. Getting to the coffee plantation took time and transporting the harvest was difficult. Another major problem was that he processed and dried his coffee beans in his house. He hoped for a harvest of 450 kg, double the amount he was getting at the time. Melvin saw H.E.L.P. as an opportunity to become a professional grower, and it quickly became clear that he made very good use of it. Through analysis of his current situation, professional advice, and training by the H.E.L.P. agronomists, he has reached his first harvest goal. He quickly implemented several measures, including moving processing and drying of the harvest out of his house and to a transportable solar dryer, leading to a significant increase in the quality of the raw product. His family’s quality of life has also gone up. It’s nice to see Melvin, who seemed unsure at the start of the project, now acting as a confident coffee grower eager to learn more.
Nora Sogastume is an impressive participant. She joined the project as a self-confident single mother with an 8-year-old son and a hectare in coffee on steeply sloping land right behind her house. Nora had some experience in coffee growing, but typically did not act with a long-term or business perspective. The roya disease affecting her coffee plants was also a major problem. Thanks to individual assistance and close cooperation with the H.E.L.P. team, Nora not only increased her originally 600 kg coffee harvest, she also lowered her costs. New water treatment methods also had a positive effect, including environmental benefits. Currently she is implementing further methods and working towards the goal of having her coffee production certified. Other coffee growers respect Nora, and in training events she shares her experiences with other project participants, especially women.
On this page you will find regular updates on all current developments regarding the H.E.L.P. project.
H.E.L.P. IS A PROJECT FROM