Rust fungus is killing coffee crops in Nicaragua and threatening the livelihood of farm workers and their families.
“Action Against Hunger conducted a food security study in the region and found that the fungus and its destruction of coffee crops is not only detrimental to the agricultural economy, it also poses a food security risk to vulnerable families who depend on the cultivation of coffee for their livelihoods, ” says Alejandro Zurita, Director of Action Against Hunger in Central America.
A plague of rust (Hemileia vastatrix) has been unfolding for several months in Central America. “The Action Against Hunger study conducted in Nicaragua shows that families of coffee workers, who already live in poverty, are suffering a reduction of approximately 30 per cent of their household income,” says Zurita. “We identified that the families typically live on about 20 to 25 Cordobas (about 75 cents to a dollar) per person per day. Today, with the impact of the rust on their crops, they are struggling to live on 14-17 Cordobas (about 60 cents).”
“In other words, these families have gone from poverty to extreme poverty,” explains Zurita.
The study by Action Against Hunger also revealed that the fungus has resulted in the loss of approximately 90,000 temporary jobs. This constitutes about 40 per cent of jobs related to the coffee crop in a normal year .
In the dry corridor of Nicaragua, there is a population of nearly 3 million inhabitants. Approximately 70 per cent of the population lives in the rural areas, and 85 per cent of these families depend on agriculture – the majority of which live on subsistence farming. These families are affected by recurrent droughts, and the rust problem adds another layer of complexity to a highly vulnerable population.