Crowdfunding has never quite been so chic as today, and the latest coffee-centric pitch for your backing adds a welcome humanitarian twist. From our friend and partners at Sustainable Harvest comes this unique fundraising opportunity to make an impact on a Guatemalan coffee farm that's suffering the tragic consequences of roya, or coffee leaf rust.
From the official Kickstarter pitch:
Finca El Valle typically produces over 140,000 pounds of coffee per year, but because of the impact of Roya, the farm produced only 28,400 pounds in 2014. Finca El Valle needs to take immediate action to fight the disease, from replanting coffee crops and new shade trees to applying treatment to impacted areas. Of the farm's 85 acres, 50 were infected with the disease.
The Finca El Valle Roya Recovery campaign will help the González family combat Roya by generating funds to replant Roya-impacted coffee trees with the same high-quality varieties they have traditionally grown, replace and plant new shade trees, and treat the remaining areas of the farm to keep Roya from spreading.
The Kickstarter campaign, initiated by Sustainable Harvest in conjunction with Batdorf & Bronson and Equator Coffees, is among the first of its kind to use alternative fundraising to address problems like roya.
“This is really our pilot,” said Sustainable Harvest's Marcus Young. “We identified a place that we thought it could have some impact, and what that might look like.”
“Finca El Valle was part of our roya recovery in Let's Talk Roya last year,” continued Young. “We featured some of what they were going through in the video and then we figured out that this year's harvest was going to have problems even more severe than last year.”
Finca El Valle's Pablo González, Cristina González' son, brought firsthand testimony of the farm's plight to the Let's Talk Coffee conference in Panama this month, where I had a chance to speak with him.
“The plants that we have are 65-70 years old, and are actually very susceptible to roya because as the plant grows it falls over, which makes it more susceptible,” said González.
“When we stump the trees, we have to wait another three years before they will actually be productive. The risk is during that lapse of time between when we stump plants and plant new plants, the plants that we're counting on for productivity may die of roya, and then the new plants may be infected with roya,” he continued.
For the González family, the labor and expense needed for measures to combat—and prevent—roya damage has struck a financially crippling blow.
“How do we keep our cash flow positive?” said González, who said the family's only option would be to mortgage their farm at steep interest rates. “Even if that were a possibility,” qualified González, adding, “Banks don't want to lend to coffee farms at all because of the roya problem.”
For now, Sustainable Harvest and Finca El Valle have projected that $20,000 would make a life-changing difference in preserving the roya-stricken part of the coffee farm—a tiny piece of land called San Tomas, which, in fact, supports the entire rest of the farm.
“We need money not only to grow coffee but just to maintain our livelihoods and the livelihoods of our employees. Our goal isn't just about trying to just get rid of the roya epidemic,” says González, “It's to try to maintain the livelihood of all those people. There are 200 people who work on the farm, so that would be 200 people that would be out of a job.”
For more information on the Finca El Valle Roya Relief Program, which concludes November 6th, visit the official Kickstarter page. They're currently a $8,852 of their $20,000 goal.
Liz Clayton is the Associate Editor at Sprudge.com, and helms our NYC desk. Read more Liz Clayton on Sprudge.