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Lin-Manuel Miranda initiative to rebuild Puerto Rico coffee industry gets nearly $3 million in pledges

By on October 24, 2018

SAN JUAN – A five-year, multimillion-dollar project aims to increase the long-term resilience and economic performance of Puerto Rico’s coffee industry via a support model that includes funding commitments by the Hispanic Federation, Nespresso, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Starbucks Foundation and individual donors.

The Hispanic Federation, which was founded and presided by “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s father, Luis, announced the launch of the initiative Wednesday together with the Miranda family.

Miranda explained that he and his family “love coffee,” which has “been a part of Puerto Rico’s rich culture and heritage for generations. I’m thrilled that my family, with the Hispanic Federation, have been able to help create such an important initiative that supports small farmers across the Island.”

TechnoServe, an international nonprofit, will lead the implementation of the program with a Puerto Rican-led team and train “thousands of smallholder coffee farmers to increase their yields and help them access better farming supplies, financing and markets.” Using the experience of its Farm College training program, TechnoServe will provide education on “climate-smart agronomic and business practices” it has used around the world.

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The Hispanic Federation made a first investment of $1 million, Nespresso committed $1 million and The Rockefeller Foundation gave $500,000. The Starbucks Foundation provided $470,000 and Starbucks donated 2 million coffee seeds of the climate-resilient Marsellesa varietal. It partnered with World Coffee Research to create a sustainable seed market.

Kraig Kraft, the global programs director for World Coffee Research, said the “main focus is to assure local nurseries have the capacity to provide healthy, high quality, disease-free plants. By strengthening the base of the industry we help safeguard their investment, while also providing recommendations and tools based the best science available.”

The Puerto Rican coffee industry was decimated after hurricanes Irma and Maria destroyed 80 percent of the coffee trees on the island last year, resulting in an $85 million loss for coffee farmers, according to a release.

“Since September 2017, the Hispanic Federation, and the Miranda family, have been on the ground in Puerto Rico listening to the needs of communities, raising funds, and bringing together multi-sector organizations committed to a long-term recovery led by Puerto Ricans,” said Hispanic Federation President José Calderón. “In addition to our $1M lead investment in this initiative, the Federation brings 28 years of experience and critical knowledge on non-profit leadership, forging public-private partnerships, and policy advocacy efforts. We will continue to mobilize major investments from well-respected businesses and philanthropic institutions to support local efforts.”

In 2017, the island’s coffee industry “was on track to be worth up to $100 million,” the announcing release reads, which explains that the initiative’s model “includes: (1) diversifying and improving the quality of coffee seed material on the island, (2) rebuilding capacity in nurseries, (3) bringing training and best-in-field climate-smart agronomic and business practices to small farmers to elevate the production and quality of the sector, and (4) establishing a network and market opportunities for farmers.”

The collaboration includes the input and support of the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture and the University of Puerto Rico, along with local nonprofit organizations, led by the Hispanic Federation, as well as roasters, coffee shops and nurseries.

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