By Ryan Bathrick, Mesoamerica Program Manager, TechnoServe

As John Cavalieri and Scott Argyres came to quickly find out, El Salvador´s coffee sector is in crisis. Yields are at an all-time low – the country´s 20,000+ farmers harvested one million fewer bags last year than the year prior. There are few quick fixes, as the country´s farms are very old, and require replanting, in an environment where there is little access to capital for investment in the sector. John’s and Scott’s assignment, to develop an industry strategic plan that can help point the sector to greater competitiveness in the medium term, is very ambitious, but two weeks into their assignment in El Salvador, they have been able to process a great deal of information collected from meetings with industry leaders, exporters, cooperatives, farmers, and lenders, as well as secondary research, and have developed several ideas they will be analyzing over the next few weeks.

Ideas they will be analyzing include: the need to help farmers diversify in order to lower their risk; the need for scalable, low-cost technical assistance; how to unlock capital for small and large farmers; and how to make high-quality genetic material from leaf rust-tolerant varieties widely available to farmers. From our initial conversations on through to this day, I´ve been impressed by how seriously John and Scott are taking this assignment, their focus, and their ability to ask the right questions to get the information they will need to complete the ISP, and am confident that the sector strategy they deliver, backed by quantitative analysis, will be a tool TechnoServe can use to help develop El Salvador´s coffee sector.