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When it rains, it pours

The phrase when 'when it rains it pours' could not be more true for Honduras and Nicaragua than now. In recent months, these two International Coffee Organization (ICO) member countries, have been hit by back to back crises. After several months fighting the health and economic repercussions of the covid-19 pandemic, now Honduras and Nicaragua are facing the devastating impact of Hurricanes Eta and Iota which occurred just two weeks apart.

Image: Flooding and damaged roads in Nicaragua (Photo provided by the Nicaraguan Embassy in London)

The ICO is in constant contact with the Embassies of Nicaragua and Honduras and is working with partners to promote recovery in the region. Using its convening power, the ICO is using its influence to encouraging actions from ICO Members, international organizations and donors, the private sector, regional organizations and financial institutions. Heeding the call, several signatories of the London Declaration and members of Coffee Public-Private Task Force (CPPTF) responded, these include: Tchibo, Lavazza, JDE, Nestlé, Volcafe, NKG, and Mercon who, together with their partner organizations, are supporting the recovery efforts through donations and direct collaboration with coffee farmers in Central America.

The CCPTF involvement is part of its constant work of identifying and addressing the root causes of the environmental, social and economic issues that persist in the coffee sector through the coordination of efforts and funding, the facilitation of effective public-private dialogue and the mobilization of actors and resources to implement commonly agreed solutions.

In Honduras, according to an initial assessment by CONCAFE (the National Coffee Council), the passage of Hurricane ETA and IOTA affected 60% of the coffee-growing municipalities and 14 of the 15 departments that produce coffee, totally damaging some 3,409 hectares and partially damaging 4,144 hectares of coffee farms. Meanwhile, in Nicaragua, three million people, almost half the population, in 56 municipalities in the country have been affected by the hurricanes and the total damage to the Nicaraguan economy is estimated at US$742.7 million, 6.2% of the national GDP. The coffee-growing areas most affected were the coffee provinces of Jinotega, Matagalpa, Boaco, Estelí, Madriz and Nueva Segovia, covering an area of 23,337 square kilometres.

The coffee harvest season is starting in both countries, and farmers reported constraints in accessing their cultivated areas. While the destruction wreaked by Eta and Iota poses huge immediate risks, even more worrying are the long-term repercussions on the income and livelihoods, especially for the poorest people in the region.

Resilience is the appropriate word to describe the attitude of these Coffee Communities. As the photographic capture below shows, despite the devastation caused by the Eta and Iota hurricanes, coffee producers have themselves cleaned the roads and are doing their best to forge ahead by rescuing their coffee crops. The pictures from Santa María del Cedro Coffee Community, in Jinotega region (Nicaragua), highlight the drastic impact of the hurricanes, but as with the pandemic, with the suffering we see the resilience, we see people pulling together to help each other to rebuild, recover and strive for a better future.

Image: Coffee producers carrying their coffee crops after clearing the road in Santa María del Cedro's coffee community in Jinotega, Nicaragua. (Photo provided by the Nicaraguan Embassy in London)

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