Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2. Resiliency - What is That?

Jan. 7, 2014
Resilience - this concept that is becoming a new anthem in economic development seems particularly relevant to specialty coffee. Within the world of coffee, it seems particularly relevant to coffee producers. It is the idea that life is full of surprises -- sometimes ones we can manage, but sometimes they can be devastating. (See the book by Walker & Salt, ResilienceThinking, 2006.)

Ben Corey-Moran, Director of Coffee Supply at Fair Trade USA, talks about the "Materia Gris," or "grey matter" that is the focus for COMSA, an innovative cooperative in western Honduras. His description of COMSA's values as an organization captures well what we mean by "resilience" and capacity building in coffee in this blog. (See the shortarticle in the on-line journal, Daily Coffee News, published by Roast magazine on Oct. 28, 2013). This was just before the start of "Let's Talk Roya" in El Salvador. COMSA is living relatively free of the devastating La Roya pest plaguing their neighbors and much of South and Central America. The coop's leadership attributes their situation to the cooperative's long-term focus (already in place for years, it seems) on "5 Ms": microorganismos (micro-organisms), materia organica (organic material), minerales (minerals), moleculas vivas (amino acids & proteins), and materia gris (grey matter—i.e., brains).

“The fifth M is the most important,” says Neri Gonzalez, COMSA’s chief agronomist. “It’s our creativity, ingenuity, and inventiveness that allows us to create and evolve these technologies to serve our needs.” COMSA is thus a great illustration of resilience in coffee. The coop seems to blatantly recognize that challenges, large and small, will never end in coffee farming.  So the best way to face them is with confidence in the producer's ability to adapt and innovate in sustainable ways, and with systematic processes to help the soil be as healthy as it can be. Combined, the coffee producer has resilience to withstand the onslaught of diseases and other stresses (often weather related).

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