Coffee is the primary economic driver in many highland communities in Central America and a major source of income for farmers, but it can also be a drain on the scarce water resources upon which some 9 million people living in coffee-growing regions depend. Conventional methods for washing coffee use large amounts of water, and the acidic wastewater from processing coffee cherries often ends up in local rivers and streams.
When managed correctly, coffee farms can help restore natural resources and provide ample amounts of quality drinking water for rural communities.
This is how Blue Harvest, a CRS partnership with Keurig Dr. Pepper and the Inter-American Development Bank’s SAFE Platform, was born. Blue Harvest began in 2014 and was created with the purpose of restoring and protecting water resources in coffee-growing communities. The program improves the drinking water for more than 150,000 people in surrounding areas and increases the productivity of coffee farms.
Blue Harvest puts ASA’s soil and water conservation practices and technologies to work in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua in the following ways:
On the farm. We implement agroforestry practices. Well managed, shade-grown agroforestry systems function like natural forests that decrease runoff and erosion and improve water infiltration.
At the wet mills. We promote the efficient use of water to mill coffee, and the proper treatment of the wastewater that remains to avoid downstream contamination.
Across the watershed. We identify key farms that serve as recharge sites for community water sources.
In the community. We work with water system operators and committees to improve the management and upkeep of their water systems and protection of their water sources.
Inside the markets. We engage with buyers who are willing to offer premiums to coffee farmers and their organizations for quality coffees that improve natural resources by implementing the Blue Harvest approach.
In 2018, 1,700 Blue Harvest farmers saw a 60% increase in their coffee production, which also boosted their income significantly.
Producers and wet-mill operators saved more than 10 million liters of water which, to give you an idea, is the equivalent of four Olympic-sized pools and more than 42 million cups of coffee. This is all thanks to the use of water efficient technology.
Nearly 100,000 acres of land were protected thanks to the 3,500 farmers trained in ASA practices.