Coffee Kids Update: Chickens and More in Chiapas, Mexico

Dec 28, 2009
Coffee Kids is a nonprofit dedicated to helping coffee-farming families improve their quality of life. We work with families in coffee-farming communities to create and implement programs in microcredit, education, health awareness and food security. Special thanks to the Bunn-O-Matic Corporation for allowing us to share our work on this blog.

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High in the mountains of northwestern Chiapas, Mexico, is the Selva Negra, or Black Jungle, so named for the dark clouds that often settle among the valleys. Coffee is the primary cash crop on these misty, mountain hillsides,

For generations, families here have relied on coffee as their main source of income, said Jos Luis Zrate of Coffee Kids.

Normally, families in the Selva Negra can expect $1.62 USD per pound of their certified organic coffee. Coffees certified organic and Fair Trade ordinarily command higher prices, but when demand is low or weather affects the harvest, many families suffer.

This year, the clouds became darker when a buyer reneged on a contract. Farmers were then forced to sell their certified organic coffee on the local market for a loss.

Around the world, more than 125 million people depend on coffee for their income. Most confront chronic malnutrition, poor sanitation and little to no access to health care or education. But in the Selva Negra, families are taking control of their lives with the help of Coffee Kids.

Coffee Kids, founded in 1988, works with coffee-farming communities to identify their most pressing needs and partners with local organizations to implement projects.

Families in the Selva Negra struggle with food scarcity and lack reasonable access to consistent health care. Coffee Kids partner, The Association for Research and Training of Southeastern Mexico (ICSUR), works to address these problems. They train locals to implement projects in edible mushroom cultivation, chicken-raising and traditional medicines.

The edible mushroom project was established in 2005. The 20 participating families now harvest more than 100 pounds of oyster mushrooms per week. In 2008, the mushroom project became self-sustaining and families began purchasing their own supplies with proceeds from mushroom sales.

This year, Coffee Kids is supporting ICSURs chicken-raising and traditional medicine projects. The chicken-raising project provides both an affordable source of protein and additional income to families.

Coordinators with the traditional medicine project tap the accumulated knowledge of community members to identify useful medicinal herbs and introducing new ones. For many in these remote villages, the nearest doctor is a days journey away. Herbal medicines provide a safe and effective alternative for common illnesses.

I realize now that there are many ways of improving our lives without so many resources from the outside. I have worked in the chicken project for three years and now Im learning about medicinal plants, said Aida Cruz Ramrez, a participant in the chicken-raising and traditional medicine projects. I think the most important thing I have learned is to cherish what we have at hand in our community; to cherish what surrounds us.

Coffee Kids is a donor-supported organization. To learn more about Coffee Kids and donate, visit www.coffeekids.org or call (505) 820-1443.

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