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PROCAGICA: a team effort benefitting Central American coffee farmers

Collaboration between SECAC, CIRAD and CATIE, in conjunction with IICA, has contributed to the success of the Central American Program for Integrated Coffee Rust Management (PROCAGICA).

San Jose, 29 April 2021 (IICA) – The Central American Program for Integrated Coffee Rust Management, PROCAGICA, has worked successfully with the Executive Secretariat of the Central American Agricultural Council (SECAC), the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), to promote a production model for coffee that is sustainable and resilient to the challenges of climate change.  

This team effort has yielded major results: PROCAGICA has benefitted more than 7,000 coffee farmers in Central America and the Dominican Republic, by fostering coffee plantation restoration, crop diversification to bolster food security, strengthening of early warning systems and scientific research to improve the resilience of coffee plants.

Since 2016, PROCAGICA—a European Union program executed by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)—has worked with regional strategic partners and coffee institutions in each country, undertaking actions that complement national and regional efforts to improve preparation, response capacity and the resilience of the most vulnerable populations that depend on coffee farming in Central America and the Dominican Republic, given the threats created by climate variability  and change.

PROCAGICA collaborators include regional institutions, such as CATIE, a regional leader in coffee research; CIRAD, a leading international research center; and SECAC, the executive body of Ministries of Agriculture of Central America and the Dominican Republic in the Central American Integration System (SICA).

These institutions have taken part in the program’s technical execution process in their respective areas of specialization and have actively participated in developing actions that are linked to their areas of experience, in order to maximize the technical and operational quality of the program.

PROCAGICA has collaborated with CIRAD in the establishment and strengthening of national coffee risk management systems, with a view to anticipating new phytosanitary crises involving coffee leaf rust and preventing any socioeconomic impact on small farmers in Central America and the Dominican Republic.

As part of these strengthening actions, the program worked with regional and national institutions in charge of operating surveillance and early warning systems in aspects related to the governance and the standardization of these systems.

On the basis of research in the field, CIRAD, under the PROCAGICA program, created models to forecast the development of coffee leaf rust and its socioeconomic impact. These models have been integrated into a platform—PERGAMINO—to facilitate exchange of standardized information and generation of forecasts.

Jacques Avelino, a technical and scientific specialist at CIRAD, explained that, “The standardization of information and the use of common tools facilitate linkages among national systems at the regional level. Each country has access to the platform and can upload information about national alerts so that it can be shared regionally, using a standardized scale”.

Forecasts can also be generated, using the models, and reports can be developed and shared on the platform. PROMECAFÉ is a regional network of coffee institutions, and its main role, according to the researcher, is to coordinate the regional coffee risk management network.

In addition to the forecasting tools and information exchange, another tool, OPTIROYA, optimizes monitoring of the coffee leaf rust.

Avelino explained that, “It enables the calculation of the number of plots required to ensure that monitoring is efficient, and this has resulted in substantial savings in several countries. There is also a mobile app—Pergamino móvil—that has been developed for producers, allowing them to monitor coffee leaf rust on their farm and to share information nationally about disease levels. In exchange, producers receive forecasts about how the disease will evolve on their farms”.

Roberto Harrison, Executive Secretary of the CAC, emphasized, among others, the participation of IICA and PROCAGICA in formulating a Regional Strategic Plan for Coffee Farming in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean (MESOCAFÉ Plan), which was approved by the Council of Ministers in 2019.

Under the plan, which contains six major strategic areas of focus, a proposal was developed for the Comprehensive Sustainability Program for the Coffee Chain in Mesoamerica and the Dominican Republic; it was approved this year.

Harrison maintained that, “We now have a clearer notion of where we are going with coffee in the Mesoamerican region”.

Also under the MESOCAFÉ Plan, a study was undertaken with a view to identifying major limitations and opportunities in intraregional marketing of coffee in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Based on the results, important recommendations were made and suggestions proposed about possible lines of action that could be considered for intraregional trade.

CATIE specialist, Elías de Melo, stressed that “the collaboration with PROCAGICA has enhanced the scientific strength of validation efforts taking place in a network of demonstration plots throughout Central America. The network of plots was established in the production units of PROCAGICA beneficiaries in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua”. He confirmed that, “The plots have been essential to the training of technicians and farmers”.

The results of work on these plots have identified certain ideal innovations, as measures for climate change adaptation and integrated management of coffee plantations, which include, water harvesting and irrigation; windbreak barriers, using trees; composting, mechanized weed management, mechanized shade management and improved coffee varieties.

De Melo also indicated that by putting the new varieties that have been studied by CATIE into the hands of coffee farmers, PROCAGICA “has helped to complete the information collected during 20 years of research. Today, we are quite sure that these improved materials have an extremely high capacity in terms of quality and resistance to pests and diseases. PROCAGICA is helping to close out a 20-year cycle of continuous production and has allowed us to validate the improved materials under farm conditions”.

Alliances with regional strategic partners under the PROCAGICA program are assisting in equipping regional integration authorities, scientific institutions, and national institutional structures that have oversight of the coffee sector with a greater range of tools and mechanisms to tackle the threats of climate variability and change in the coffee farming sector of Central America and the Dominican Republic.


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Institutional Communication Division