Guatemala: 2,000 Women Receive Cash to Help Ease the Impact of the Coffee Rust Crisis

The coffee rust continues to affect the livelihoods of families in Guatemala. As a result, WFP and the Government of Guatemala launched a Cash for Assets pilot programme to help ease the impact of the crisis. Armida Zapet, one of the beneficiaries of this programme, along with her family are one among hundreds of families affected by the coffee rust in Guatemala- this is her story.

Guatemala City- The small piece of land in which they grow coffee (0.4 acres) is the most valuable asset Arminda Zapet and her family have. However, their crops, as well as the neighboring crops, did not produce any yields this harvest season.

Her husband René Wilfrido, continues to search for work at nearby coffee farms, but there are very few opportunities. The usual four-day work week has been cut to a two-day week because of the coffee rust that has plagued such a large portion of the country.

Arminda, searches for job’s washing clothes to help compensate for her husband’s decreased income; yet, her efforts are fruitless as she seldom finds work. The situation is difficult for the Zapet family, a couple and four children- two girls and two boys-, who live Caserío Nuevo Valdemar, within the municipality of San Pablo in the Department of San Marcos.

It's the Coffee Rust

Since the last quarter of 2012 the plague of coffee rust, which affects the production of coffee trees, has endangered the food and nutrition security of households in Guatemala- like Arminda whose livelihoods depend on coffee production.

The Guatemalan Government estimated that at least 105,000 households are in need of immediate food assistance. Guatemalan women holding their cash cardsThe vulnerable families include smallholder farmers and those who work as day labourers on coffee farms.

The level of vulnerability of the assisted households and those at risk is aggravated by several factors, including the consequences on the production of staple grains of the drought in 2012 and 2013 and seasonal hunger, which takes place every year between May and October.

Cash for Assets Project

In order to help ease the impact caused by the crisis, Arminda received a transfer of 643.85 quetzals (roughly US$81) as part of the support that WFP, in coordination with the Guatemalan Government, gave to 2,000 women affected by the coffee rust in the Departments of San Marcos and Huehuetenango.
Arminda and the other 2,000 women participating in the Cash for Assets project participate in activities such as cleaning, pruning, and planting new shrubs, to prepare their land for sowing. The beneficiaries who do not have their own land/crops have been trained to produce seedlings for sale.

Support that Began in 2013

The World Food Programme began assisting vulnerable households in Guatemala in 2013 through food distributions. After the initial distribution, food distribution became contingent on participants working and creating assets in order to restore their own livelihoods.

In total, 16,000 households were assisted in six Departments- Huehuetenango, San Marcos, El Quiché, Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz and Solola. Support will be extended to 11,000 homes, possible due to a contribution from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). However, in order to reach the target, which is to provide assistance to 61,000 households affected by coffee rust, US $ 10 million is necessary.

Buying Nutritious FoodArminda holding her baby boy on her lap

Prior to receiving the first transfer Arminda, along with the other beneficiaries, learnt about the project’s goals, the selection criteria, and the importance of investing the money on food.

Arminda and the other participants are very grateful for WFP’s support. With the cash transfer, Arminda bought corn, beans, chicken, vegetables, pasta, and fruit.

Also on the beneficiaries’ shopping list: milk, rice, oats, "Incaparina" (a fortified blended drink from corn and soybeans), among other foods.

All beneficiaries will receive a second transfer of the same amount, in the next few months, provided that they meet with the pre-discussed requirements.

The total money transferred is calculated from what the cost of a WFP food basket is in the local market.