American Farmers Volunteer To Help Fight Serious Coffee Blight In Central America

July 28, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. skilled volunteers are helping Central American growers struggling with a serious coffee blight that has led to shortages and higher prices for coffee beans this year. Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA), a nonprofit which supports expert volunteers working on economic development projects overseas, has been sending Americans to assist coffee growers in El Salvador who are facing serious problems with coffee rust through its Farmer-to-Farmer program.

“America is by far the biggest importer of coffee beans in the world, so it’s only appropriate that we help give back to the farmers facing this devastating blight,” said Stanley Kuehn, regional director for Latin American and the Caribbean at the National Cooperative Business Association’s CLUSA International program (NCBA CLUSA), which is a member of VEGA. “This particular problem is also one where the expertise of American farmers can help make a difference.”

Caused by a fungus that originated in Africa or through spores that crossed the Atlantic Ocean, coffee rust has affected growers before. It’s become a particular problem this year in Central America due to unusually high temperatures and rainfall as well as older plant varieties and growing methods.

“Most coffee beans in Central America come from small growers who have not adopted newer varieties that are resistant to coffee rust and failed to implement cultural practices dealing with the problem like larger growers in countries like Brazil,” said Kuehn. “As they are being forced to adapt quickly this year, it helps that they have experienced volunteers they can turn to for advice and collaboration.”

VEGA has long provided skilled volunteers through its Farmer-to-Farmer program, which is funded through the U.S. Farm Bill to assist agricultural industries in developing countries, middle-income countries, and emerging markets increase farm production and incomes. Since the program began, volunteers have served in over 110 countries, including all of the Central American countries currently being affected by the coffee rust problems the most. Volunteers may be U.S. farmers, agribusiness executives, heads of cooperatives, or professors from universities.

“With coffee prices rising due to the coffee rust and drought in South America, the help these farmers are receiving will help Americans too in the long run,” added Kuehn. “Our economy seems to run on coffee.”

About Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance
Based in the nation’s capital, Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) is the world’s largest consortium of economic growth volunteer organizations providing technical expertise in private sector development. Collectively, VEGA has more than 350 years of experience in mobilizing American volunteers to support economic growth in developing countries (including post-conflict and transition), and in designing and implementing successful technical assistance projects across the spectrum of economic growth activities worldwide.

To learn more, visit: http://vegaalliance. org.