. . . by collaborating with coffee farmers.
On June 3, 2018, the Fuego volcano in Guatemala erupted, spreading ash, sand and lava across surrounding regions, killing 110 people and leaving nearly 200 still missing. Graduate student Taya Brown ’19 had been working in the region of San Pedro Yepocapa, less than four miles from the crater of the volcano, for three years.
As a student affiliated with the Texas A&M Center for Coffee Research and Education, her research focuses on identifying obstacles faced by smallholder coffee famers. After the eruption, Brown and a colleague founded The Del Fuego Project, a nonprofit dedicated to merging science with local knowledge to build an approach to help the region’s farmers recover from the tragedy.
“We wanted to bring much needed education and resources to the region and grow something positive out of the devastation,” explained Brown. They hosted the Yepocapa Coffee Quality Summit this past spring, an educational event attended by nearly 300 locals, that was the first of its kind for Yepocapa farmers.
Brown entered graduate school to pursue work on global food security issues, and along the way, she’s learned what it means to be a true leader. “In many cases, leadership is simply about taking initiative and persisting in a goal no matter what is required,” said Brown. “If I’ve done anything right in Guatemala, it’s been to stay motivated and hope that by listening to the farmers and telling their story, I can increase their opportunities for reaching an improved quality of life."