Between 2012 and 2014, coffee leaf rust – known as la roya in Latin America – caused over $1 billion in damage, according to USAID. It devastated coffee farmers, who had to bear the brunt of the damage and typically only have small profit margins.
Finding a solution to the fungus, which turns leaves a rusty orange-yellow colour, is of paramount appearance. On an industry-wide level, this includes research into rust-resistant varietals. On a farm level, it involves preventative measures, improved communication, and helping farmers to be less vulnerable to it.
How to Tackle Coffee Leaf Rust
Lutheran World Relief worked to help farmers respond to leaf rust in Nicaragua – and have shared their strategies in a short clip. Their four-pronged approach involves:
- Providing farmers with high-yield trees so they can rebuild their farms.
- Demonstrating how to use bio-minerals to combat the fungus. These are both cheaper and enable farmers to keep organic certification. In turn, this means they can sell the crops for more and decrease their costs.
- Improving access to information. A radio channel, community extension officers, and smartphones all help farmers to remain up to date on coffee leaf rust – and how to fight it.
- Encouraging farmers to diversify their income so that they are less dependent on coffee.
Tackling Coffee Leaf Rust in Nicaragua
Please note: this video recommends the use of shade trees to combat coffee leaf rust. There is debate over whether shade trees increase or decrease the likelihood of coffee leaf rust appearing, although it’s certainly true that it tends to produce better quality coffee – which will have a higher profit margin. The decision to use or not use shade trees should always be made in light of the farm conditions and local climate.
Feature photo credit: Lutheran World Relief
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