A Ray of Hope
“My name is Dunia Patricia Martinez Osorio. I’m 31 years old and the mother of a beautiful daughter named Yelina. I have a degree in Business and Industrial Administration as well as a Masters in Finance from the Universidad Tecnológica (UNITEC), Honduras.
“I am currently the mayor of the Opatoro Municipality in the state of La Paz, Honduras – where I was born and have my family roots. All my life I have been surrounded by and grown up in coffee farms. For my family and the rest of the families in our municipality, the production of coffee was our only source of income for many years.
“Coffee farming in Opatoro goes back more than 100 years. In fact, Florida de Opatoro [florida means in bloom referring here to coffee flower bloom], the primary coffee-growing town in our municipality, owes its very name to this crop. At our peak, we produced 40,000qq of “café oro” (green coffee). However, since 2012 the production of coffee throughout the municipality has been declining, with enormous impacts on the financial stability of local families.
“On January 25, 2014, I became mayor of our municipality. When I started in this position, the municipality was facing many problems, in particular issues surrounding the near complete loss of the primary source of income for most of our families: coffee. The effects of coffee rust on the older farms, the high susceptibility to rust of the high quality Arabica coffee varieties, and poor management practices lead to a disaster without precedent. Things were looking grim for us. Up to 50% of our population migrated to other parts of the country.
“I found myself totally disappointed and directionless. That is, until the Blue Harvest program arrived in June of 2014. Through Blue Harvest, I participated in an experiential learning tour to Nicaragua, and from that moment on my perspective changed. I had a new vision of what we had to do in our municipality. I realized that we couldn’t wait any longer. In order to restore our economy we had to once again engage with what we knew how to do best: promote, nurture and rescue the coffee sector.
“We decided to spread optimism among our community and invest in coffee. We started by buying 10,000 seedlings of the lempira coffee variety to help motivate the smaller producers who had most been affected by rust. Then we established community-led nurseries with Blue Harvest farmers. In our first year, we established 240,000 coffee plants of the Lempira, Parainema and Icatu varieties on 130 small farms. These varieties are more resistant to rust and produce a high-quality coffee. Next to the coffee greenhouses, we established forestry nurseries, with 80,000 seedlings of forest trees, including oak, pink cedar and others. Our plan was to re-establish the coffee farms as a sustainable agroforestry system, and to also reforest the “El Cimarron” watershed, which is a critical water source for our communities, in partnership with the water committees and microwatershed council.
“In order to get these coffee plants established on farms, we provided support in the way of fertilizer for those farmers who had the greatest financial need. We delivered 169qq of fertilizer through the municipality’s farm program under a low credit scheme, with 8% annual interest to be paid once the crop has been harvested.
“From the very beginning, we realized there was a high demand for technical assistance with the program. We, therefore, joined up with the Blue Harvest Program to provide five farmer-promoters who could provide support through the whole process, from training, technical assistance, and guidance. These farmer-promoters are volunteers who receive the equivalent of $68/month, a cost which we share equally with the Blue Harvest program. They have been trained through workshops at IHCAFE, on subjects such as the integrated pest Management, Plant nutrition and management, amongst others.
“The biggest personal change I have experienced through my participation with Blue Harvest has been my change in attitude. Cosecha Azul provided a ray of hope for our community. We are slowly starting to recover our coffee culture and the lives and livelihoods of our people. No more pessimism. With some hard work, Opatoro can be a different place in 4 years.
“Thank you Cosecha Azul!”