Overcoming the Thin Months in Coffee Print E-mail

How diversification can generate stable and higher incomes in Marcala (Honduras)

by Fabiana Margadant 


Abstract

Yearly recurring months of food insecurity are a common occurrence for many small-scale coffee farmers in Central America. The farmers have even a name for these months: los meses flacos (the Thin Months). This thesis identifies causes of the Thin Months and proposes strategies for small-scale coffee farmers in Marcala, Honduras, to overcome them. The two main causes identified through interviews carried out in July and August of 2015 in Marcala, Honduras, and through literature research are insufficient income and insufficient subsistence crop production.

This thesis proposes to tackle the two main causes through income and crop diversification. Both diversification strategies can be realized through an increased vegetable production. On the one hand, farmers can sell vegetables additional to coffee and increase income diversification, on the other hand farmers can increase their level of self-sufficiency. However, the lack of water availability for vegetable production impedes small-scale coffee farmers in Marcala to do so. Therefore, this thesis proposes to increase water availability through water harvesting and restraining and to provide farmers with irrigation systems in order to diversify and stabilize income streams through vegetables production. The three projects described in this thesis carried out by iDE (International Development Enterprises) show, that that the proposed methods lead to more stable and higher incomes and, therefore, contribute to the eradication of los meses flacos for coffee farmers in Marcala.

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