My sister and I set out to rescue the family coffee farm – but ended up establishing a family countryside library.
Our country, Honduras, is as renowned for its good coffee as it is for its social issues: crime, poverty, and unemployment. In 2014, World Bank put the poverty rate at 62.8%.
Yet we believe a library can help improve the lives of women and children, boost families’ incomes, and help produce better coffee.
Education is the key to a thriving community. Credit: Claudia Albir
My sister, Sabrina, and I knew our family coffee farm was struggling. Once a beautiful place with healthy coffee trees, strong fruit trees, and thriving honey bees, it had become unsustainable.
Nor were we the only family with this problem. The nearby village of Las Manos also struggled with unsustainable coffee farms.
We wanted a better model for the farm and for the village. And so organic farming became our mission. We took on an agricultural engineer specializing in organic farming and invited the community to participate in courses free of charge. It was a great success. Many small producers finished the courses full of excitement.
Yet we weren’t satisfied. We wanted more female participants. And we saw the local children and wondered to provide ways to develop their creativity while furthering their education.
We wanted to integrate social solutions into economic ones.
Credit: Sabrina Albir
Our aims were ambitious. We wanted to help mothers work and give women independence. We wanted activities for kids and families. We wanted organic farming education. We wanted to prompt discussions on important topics: child abuse, parenting, Honduran culture, business management, and more. We wanted Las Manos to become more creative, more organized, and more entrepreneurial.
And we thought a family countryside library was the solution. What’s more, it’s a solution for all seasons.
When mothers need to work on the farm, to harvest the coffee and dry the cherries, the children can stay at the library to be taken care of. And at other times of year, when people do not have to work such long hours on the farm, it is a place for anyone in the community.
We took inspiration from Human Farm/La Finca Humana. We knew that organic agriculture and education can bring communities together.
We collected books via donation. Credit: Sabrina Albir
We planned for the library to be hosted in the village church and primary school. We had the location – but we still needed the books. Fortunately, the village was behind us and people were willing to donate books.
The collection finished on the 16th of October. Now we are organizing the library, which we plan to open in December or January.
Coffee farming does not exist in isolation. The beans are grown and harvested, processed and packed, by a community. And when that community has problems, so does the coffee industry. When women cannot work, there are only half as many coffee pickers. When children cannot be cared for, the coffee farmers of the future are being neglected. And when farmers do not know about the latest farming techniques, we can taste it in the cup.
A family countryside library, however, can educate the farmers. It can provide a safe space for children to grow and learn. And it can enable women to work on the farm.
It may be the key to making our farms sustainable.