Three coffee growers, three individual stories
At 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 very different people, and their stories provide examples of the different starting situations, challenges, expectations and wishes that H.E.L.P. addresses. At the very first follow-on visit, their improvements showed how effective even quickly implemented measures can be.
Yolanda Paz was one of the first to register for H.E.L.P. in 2016. Previously she had taken over a one-hectare coffee plantation from her father. In Honduras, that’s still a rarity for a young, unmarried woman. Furthermore, she lived on the farm with her parents, siblings and other family members.
From the beginning it was clear that Yolanda’s situation was unusual. But she had the ambition to make her own way and show all the sceptics, especially her father, that she could do it. A further aggravating factor is the debt that Yolanda’s family owes to a middleman, paying it off year by year with the harvest. For Yolanda that is just more motivation, and she hopes with the aid of H.E.L.P. to achieve long-term success through ongoing individual assistance.
Her goal was to produce larger harvests of good-quality coffee, and thanks to measures designed specifically for her, she has already met this goal. Indeed, through her hard work she has exceeded expectations. Yolanda is a very active and ambitious participant in the project and would like to achieve much more as a coffee grower. She’s an example to others, and even her father now respects her commitment.
Melvin is a very interesting case. With honest self-criticism, he admits that when he signed up for H.E.L.P. he knew almost nothing about growing coffee. He cultivated his one-hectare plot as best he could, but getting to the coffee plants took time and transporting the harvest away was very difficult. Another major problem was that he processed and dried his coffee beans in his house – the same house his family lives in.
Melvin hoped through H.E.L.P. to reach a harvest of 450 kg. In 2016 that meant doubling his harvest. This faith in the aid project shows that he saw H.E.L.P. as an opportunity to become a professional coffee grower. Through the initial analysis of his current situation, professional advice and training by the H.E.L.P. agronomist responsible for his case, and further training, he has reached his harvest goal. In addition to other quickly implemented measures, he moved processing and drying of the harvest out of his house and into a transportable solar dryer. This alone resulted in a great increase in the quality of his product, as well has improving his family’s quality of life substantially.
It’s nice to see Melvin, who seemed unsure of himself at the start of the project, now acting as a confident coffee grower, eager to learn more and to help other farmers with tips and advice.
Nora was an impressive project participant from the start. She joined the project as a self-confident single mother of an 8-year-old son. She cultivates a hectare of very steep land right behind her house. Nora had experience in coffee growing, but typically did not act with a long-term or business perspective. The rust disease affecting her coffee plants was also a major concern.
Thanks to individual assistance and close cooperation with the H.E.L.P. team, Nora not only increased her original 600 kg coffee harvest, she also lowered her costs. New methods for water treatment near her little hacienda had a positive effect, including on the environment. Further measures are currently being implemented. In order to secure her long-term success, currently she is working towards the goal of having her coffee production certified.
Other coffee growers respect Nora for her abilities, and in trainings she passes on her experience to other project participants, especially women.