Ometepe Coffee facing challenges for future

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After 30 years of partnership, the Ometepe-Gulf Islands Friendship Association is looking to the future.

Though they’ve had a strong 30-year history, the group is facing new challenges going into the future.  The trials of Sandinista-era Nicaragua are largely gone, but have been replaced with 21st-century issues like climate change, agricultural disease and the struggle to keep momentum going with a new generation.

Nedjo Rogers, the chairperson for OGIFA, said that it’s “really important that we maintain that engagement and knowledge here about what’s going on. A lot of people know about Ometepe coffee and it’s important that our community here knows something about the current challenges and struggles.”

OGIFA relies on coffee every year to help with their fundraising. Most people know of the Ometepe Coffee brand and are used to seeing it in the Saturday market through the summer and at local coffee shops all year round. However, this year the coffee plantations have been stricken with coffee rust, a fungal infection that is devastating to commercial coffee plantations.

Since Ometepe Coffee is fair trade, the harvest is paid for in part before the growing season begins. This will help the coffee producers cover their short-term costs, but the low harvest will affect the OGIFA’s ability to help. Part of the fair trade agreement that OGIFA has is that it is considered to be more of a partnership than a traditional supplier-distributor agreement.

One challenge facing the group is maintaining community engagement on Salt Spring Island. The Ometepe Coffee brand is strong on the island, but they are completely volunteer driven and are looking to recruit younger people to help out.

George Harris, who was one of the founders of OGIFA, has a daughter who has been living part of the year each year down on Ometepe. He sees the value of getting young people involved in the organization.

“Getting some youth from here down there as part of the future of the organization is so important to us. When you’re there you see it’s an incredibly wonderful place. We learn so much from being there, because we’re bombarded by consumer insanity in the culture that we live in here.”

“We look forward to these challenging circumstances as a chance to replant and renew our own engagements and commitments that have carried us for 30 years and we hope will go on for another 30 years,” said Rogers.

For more on this story, see the Feb. 28, 2018 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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