Santa María, Honduras, 5 May 2021 (IICA). José Amílcar García Vásquez is a coffee farmer whose belief in associations has allowed him to reap the benefits of the Central American Program for Integrated Coffee Rust Management (PROCAGICA) – a program that the European Union (EU) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) are spearheading in the region.
“I want to enjoy the same success as others”, he insisted. “PROCAGICA has been a huge achievement for us and has provided valuable assistance for our plots. I am happy and very grateful, because we can feel and see these improvements and positive results on our coffee plantations”, said García, during a visit to his farm.
In 2016, he was able to join the program, as both a member of a rural savings bank for the sector and of the CAFESA Association, which he heads. The approximately 70-member rural savings bank accessed funding and training, with the support of PROCAGICA, for producers affected by coffee leaf rust in the departments of Marcala, Chinacla, San José and Santa María.
“We organized ourselves and managed to negotiate better prices for our coffee, because we are operating within Fair Trade guidelines for organic coffee production. This ensures us better prices than those offered by the traditional market or even intermediaries, because the product is being sent directly to the market, and it is the association that has allowed us to achieve this”, he explained.
Amílcar García has a cultivated area of 1.4 manzanas (0.98 hectares) in acreage, which the program has selected as a Model Farm. It is located in Camalote, which is a community in the municipality of Santa María in the department of La Paz, Honduras.
In order to properly maintain their farms, the participants learned to capitalize on materials that can be found within their communities, such as manure, which they mix with fertilizer that they receive from PROCAGICA, since, as García tells us, organic fertilizer “is more effective”.
José Amílcar García explained that prior to receiving assistance from the program, he was able to reap a mere 15 to 20 quintals of coffee berries per manzana of land and sometimes only 10 quintals.
The technical assistance, inputs and tools provided have now enabled him to reap 80 quintals of coffee berries per manzana, which are of a high quality, according to the studies performed by the program’s technical staff.
“We reap all the coffee, prune the trees and regulate the shade, to protect against pests. This is good for us and the entire coffee sector. We are grateful for what the program has done for us and our farms and we are extremely proud to be the owners of a model farm”, he explained.
He said that several committees have visited his farm to observe the results, “because we have been talking about the results and success of the program, since we experienced them for ourselves”.
Before and after
On receiving PROCAGICA’s support, the change has been remarkable, confirmed Garcia.
“My wife used to tell me that this wasn’t a farm. The coffee plants were not developing, and the beans were small. They would be left out on the patio for consumption, because they were so small that they would pass through the depulper without being processed”, he explained.
The PROCAGICA beneficiary remarked: “Now, we are reaping larger beans that are more equal in size, which can be utilized to the fullest. By using only organic material, we have been able to produce high quality coffee”.
He reflected that as a coffee producer he has learned how to stump the trees on the farm and to plant live barriers with snake plants, the yucca flower or pineapple plants, as this protects the coffee trees that are planted on the hillside. “We didn’t utilize organic material in the soil, but now we do”, he said.
PROCAGICA is spearheaded by the EU and IICA in the Marcala, Chinacla, Santa María and San José municipalities of La Paz, Honduras.
The implementation of agroforestry systems that is being promoted by the program contributes to biodiversity and water resource conservation, as well as carbon sequestration, thus facilitating adaptation to climate change and climate variability in the region.