From fungus to tree tops, Lycoming College students to learn about the art of sustainable coffee growing

From fungus to tree tops, Lycoming College students to learn about the art of sustainable coffee growing

Chino, president of the cooperative, shows professor Caroline Payne how to tell one coffee varietal from another. Because some varietals are more disease resistant than others, each farm co-op needs to grow several varietals to protect its investment.

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Nearly a dozen Lycoming College students will once again be advancing the cause of small coffee growers in the Dominican Republic during a nearly 3-week trip in May. With their help, coffee growers on the tropical island will continue their efforts to farm sustainably by planting shade trees that improve the quality of coffee and provide them with secondary products to sell including cacao and macadamia nuts. Students also will help them improve record-keeping, perform tests to determine water quality, improve access to clean water, and purchase and plant new varietals of coffee plants.

The farmers’ partnership with Lycoming, which also guarantees farmers a better market price for their coffee, is helping them bounce back from the harmful effects of a fungus that is destroying crops across Latin America.

“During my first trip to El Naranjito in 2012, I was welcomed by a community that was doing everything in its power to rise out of poverty but was stymied by economic limitations they had no control over,” said Caroline Payne, Ph.D., professor of political science at Lycoming who organizes the partnership with the communities. “I realized our students could learn, through them, that political science in not just the abstract study of the distribution of power. Our partnership provides Lycoming students with unprecedented opportunities to directly apply sustainable development principles to help people work within or even change political and social structures so they are more economically beneficial for all involved.”

During the trip, community leaders and Lycoming faculty will continue discussions to ensure access to enough coffee to supply Lycoming’s WarriorBlue brand and identify future initiatives. Potential collaborative efforts include chemical analyses of water sources and soils, grant-writing, and installing solar power technology.

“Each time I return to El Naranjito, I’m reminded of the power of building and maintaining relationships,” said Payne. “One thing I emphasize with students is the importance of dialogue in order to ensure community buy-in and trust. The opportunity we have to return to El Naranjito year after year, and have our non-profit partners ACES North America there even more frequently, has been crucial to our success thus far.”

Payne, along with Jonathan Williamson, Ph.D., political science professor, and Jeremy Ramsey, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, identified the May trip’s initiatives during an earlier trip to the Dominican Republic in January where they discussed community needs and student skill sets with the leaders of the coffee co-operative.

Students participating in the May trip include:
Allison DeHaas, a junior political science major from Easton, Pa.
Alex Dvorshock, a junior creative writing major from Hughesville, Pa.
Brittney Gross, a sophomore Spanish and international studies major from Mastic, N.Y.
Jessica Hoff, a senior sociology and Spanish major from Lambertville, N.J.
Morgan Luke, a senior international studies and political science major from Williamsport, Pa.
Lilian Muhosa, a sophomore political science major from Staunton, Va.
Margot Rankins-Burd, a junior music major from West Winfield, N.Y.
Jessica Snover, a junior anthropology major from Newton, N.J.
Ben Thompson, a senior history and political science major from Ridgway, Pa.
Spencer Vause, a junior political science major from Highland, Md.
Mary Katherine Yarish, a junior political science major from Fannettsburg, Pa.

Lycoming College is seeking donations to help offset the cost of the trip for the students. Click here to learn more about Warrior brand coffees. Click here to donate today. You also can fund coffee initiatives through the purchase of Warrior Coffee.

  • The roya fungus is destroying coffee plants all over Latin America prompting farmers to diversify their coffee varietals. Because of the fungus, coffee yields have dropped significantly putting more economic pressure on farmers and making quality of life projects, like access to clean water, all the more critical.

    The roya fungus is destroying coffee plants all over Latin America prompting farmers to diversify their coffee varietals. Because of the fungus, coffee yields have dropped significantly putting more economic pressure on farmers and making quality of life projects, like access to clean water, all the more critical.

  • Diseases are not the only challenge coffee growers face. The broca, a borer insect, is also affecting the quantity and quality of crops. A farmer discusses with Lycoming professors Caroline Payne (left) and Jonathan Williamson how to counter the attacks using organic farming methods.

    Diseases are not the only challenge coffee growers face. The broca, a borer insect, is also affecting the quantity and quality of crops. A farmer discusses with Lycoming professors Caroline Payne (left) and Jonathan Williamson how to counter the attacks using organic farming methods.

  • The nearly 2-year-old son of a community leader, whose family has grown coffee for generations, picks coffee under his parents' watchful eye as they discuss business with Lycoming professors.

    The nearly 2-year-old son of a community leader, whose family has grown coffee for generations, picks coffee under his parents' watchful eye as they discuss business with Lycoming professors.

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