Coffee farmers battle rust, debt and market challenges
June 7, 2014
Colombia's smallest-scale coffee farmers are struggling to keep up. Jairo Martinez and his family were forced to flee their land and abandon their crops in 1996, as violence between left-wing guerilla and right-wing paramilitary forces escalated in his mountain village, La Secreta. Paramilitaries executed close family members and burned his house to the ground.
He returned as soon as the region settled, only to confront new challenges. La Roya- an aggressive coffee fungus- wiped out his crops. He is now planting new seedlings resistant to La Roya, but faces a mountain of debt, including back-taxes on his land accrued during the years he and his family were displaced, unable to farm their land or generate income. Global coffee prices plunged from $3.00 to $1.50 per pound in 2012, and Jairo and other farmers had to take out loans just to cover daily production expenses.