In 2007, a research team from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) was commissioned by Keurig Green Mountain to develop an understanding of the community challenges faced by small-scale coffee farmers in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico. The team, which included our co-founder Rick Peyser, conducted one-on-one interviews with hundreds of individuals and families on the farm, in community centers, in cooperative offices, and in homes.
The research revealed that “even producers who receive fair trade premiums suffer a period of food insecurity ranging from one to seven months of the year – every year.” Of the farmers interviewed, 67 percent experienced 3-8 months of extreme food scarcity each year. Families often refer to this period as “los meses flacos,” or thin months.
The causes include a combination of low coffee prices, overdependence on a single product for income, limited access to finance, and lack of opportunity to make substantive changes, which has resulted in a poverty trap for many.