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Stop the coffee killer


Across the coffee plantations of Central America, a devastating fungus is wrecking crops and coffee workers aren't earning enough to feed their families.

Known as 'coffee rust', it's spreading faster and further because of climate change.

"I feel so sad when they're asking for food and I can't give it to them"

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Pedro and Maria are a family in a devastating but not unusual situation. They're one of many families who show why we need to keep working together so that, one day, they won't live with poverty.

"When I'm hungry my stomach burns, I see flashing lights and it becomes much harder to work," says Pedro Villanueva, a coffee picker from Plan Del Socorro in the windswept hills of Western Honduras.

"Some days I can't go to the fields for hunger - I know I won't last half a day. But if I don't go, how will I get the money for us to be able to eat the next day?"

Plan Del Socorro is one of the many places across Central America where coffee rust has ruined recent harvests. And as a result, Pedro is one of many thousands of people who are facing a desperate struggle to earn enough to feed their children. For Pedro, the effects of coffee rust are all too clear. The rust destroys coffee plants, so there are fewer coffee beans that need to be picked.

With less work available, Pedro's already small income has shrunk even further. On a good day, he earns 100 lempiras (£2.90), when he used to earn 120 (£3.50). The impact on his family has been devastating. "When food runs out we just eat tortilla and salt," says Pedro's wife, Maria Cruz. The couple have four children - Carlos Daniel, Jeffrey, Jonathan and Joseline Jorcely.

"I say 'Children, look - there's nothing here'. It's very hard. Sometimes we don't eat so the kids can. We're adults and can take the pain more."

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Finding new solutions

Coffee rust isn't a new problem, but the speed it's spreading at is unprecedented. And the unfamiliar weather means Pedro and Maria can no longer grow maize, so they are forced to buy it instead - and because less is available, it's getting more expensive. Most weeks, they can afford enough maize and beans to last only three or four days. As Maria says, "It is hard to live here. Poverty is brutal."

So what can be done? Right now, we're working in Honduras to help coffee workers respond. We're training people to use organic fungicides that prevent coffee rust, and to replant using rust-resistant varieties of coffee. And we're supporting women, in particular, to become community leaders and push for action on climate change.

Coffee rust spots on a leaf.

For Henri Herrera, president of a local coffee co-operative, the difference is clear. "Coffee rust arrived here three years ago because of climate change," he says. "It spread and destroyed our crops. "But we're recovering with new plantations. We're improving ways of growing our coffee with great support from Oxfam, producing organic compost and creating better, organic coffee."

Esperenza Herrera Enriquez said, "I saw the rust 2 years ago for the first time. The leaves of the plants turned yellow and because I didn't know what it was, I fertilized as I thought it was what they needed but by then it was too late. The leaves fell and I lost the plants."

 

For Esperenza our support has brought new optimism: "With the help of Oxfam," she says, "I am slowly replanting and hope my future will be bright again." 

By donating today, you could help families around the world to create better, more secure futures. Donate the cost of a coffee each week and you could bring about amazing change - helping people like Pedro and Maria not just to cope, but to find new hope.

Worldwide, we're supporting communities, listening to people to understand their situations - then working with them to solve the new struggles they face. Your support could help families to eat well and move away from poverty.

So please donate today, and make an incredible difference to people like Pedro and Maria as, together, we help create a future free from poverty.

  • £20 is enough to buy seeds for a family to grow rust-resistant coffee and earn a good living for a whole year.
  • £40 is enough to pay for everything a farmer needs to replant with new coffee seeds and tend the land for a year.
  • £120 is enough to train 20 people in organic techniques that stop coffee rust and protect coffee plants.

Your life-changing coffee

Donate the cost of one coffee each week, and every month you will help people like Pedro and Maria free their families from poverty.

Please donate today 

Images: Eleanor Farmer

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