The Honduras Education Life Project
Santa Bárbara in the northwest of Honduras is the country’s oldest coffee-growing region. It is also very poor. Most of the coffee here is grown on family farms that typically have only small areas in cultivation.
Furthermore, the growers often lack extensive ecological and business knowledge. Together with the fact that many of the coffee plants are over-age, it is scarcely to be wondered at that harvests are often poor.
While the climate in the Santa Bárbara area is very good for Arabica coffee, steep slopes and growing areas deep in the rainforest make cultivation, harvesting and transportation difficult. For all these reasons, harvests in the region are far below the national average. This leads to low sales revenue, which makes it very difficult for growers to improve their living and education conditions. What’s more, the harvested beans are often not processed properly for sale, meaning that they don’t get top prices at market.
In order to help the coffee growers in the small town of San Nicolas in Santa Bárbara to improve their situation, we teamed up with Olam to found the long-term H.E.L.P. aid project. Olam is a raw materials supplier with an established infrastructure in Honduras. Thanks to the close cooperation with them, we were able to get H.E.L.P. up and running very quickly. With the great need for assistance and the lack of funding in the Santa Bárbara region, it took only a short time to interest a large number of coffee farmers in signing up as participants. This underlines the difficult situation many of these small farmers are in, and the importance of helping people help themselves.
Our goal with H.E.L.P. is to keep coffee-growing in the region attractive, while helping it become more sustainable. For this reason we provide aid targeted towards better production, living and educational conditions. We help farmers improve their agricultural skills and business knowledge. This knowledge transfer enables participants to improve the quality of their harvests, develop more awareness for the environment, and provide more security for their families through targeted reinvestment of income towards a better future.
H.E.L.P. gives coffee growers economic, ecological and social assistance intended to help them achieve long-term security. Alongside the sometimes difficult cultivation conditions for coffee in Santa Bárbara, harvests depend on many external factors. Heavy rainfall and drought caused by climate change, and coffee rust, a plant disease, can lead to bad harvests.
But some of the risks can be mitigated, and to do so, through H.E.L.P. we are assisting with reforestation for mixed cultivation, planting shade-giving plants that also reduce soil erosion, and the development of new coffee varieties that are immune to coffee rust.
To improve coffee quality, H.E.L.P. includes local coaching given by a team of trained agronomists, including an introduction to better soil and shade management for cultivated areas, and instruction on grafting and plant regeneration.
Coffee farmers also learn about plant nutrition, coffee quality, processing and marketing coffee, and the business fundamentals of inventory management, cost-benefit analyses and refinancing. Other topics are measures to combat pests and disease, wastewater management, erosion prevention, protective clothing and strategic decision-making.
After an analysis of the farms’ current situations, individual development plans are prepared together with the participants. Farmers receive ongoing training and learn different methods of coffee cultivation.
For example, at the start of coaching soil samples are analysed in order to identify individual measures to improve the soil productivity at a particular farm.
Among the methods from the coaching that have shown quick results are coffee plant regeneration techniques...
...and the construction of sun dryers to dry the coffee berries. The project encourages coffee growers not just to learn, but also to take active part, contribute their own suggestions and help each other in groups. In the future this will take place at a model farm.