What’s the Story Behind the Photo?

On the farm with two young women rebuilding after Hurricane Maria

Ariana Vanessa (right) and Emily Rose (left) are children of coffee farmers in Puerto Rico.

Ariana Vanessa (right) and Emily Rose (left) jump out of the navy blue pickup truck driven by their father. I make my way out and follow them. We’ve reached our destination at a high point of their family’s farm. These two young women are the only children of Joanna and Rafael Rodriguez, whose families have grown coffee for generations in Puerto Rico. “Me and my sister are really close,” says Emily Rose. “We like working in the fields. We help each other.” 

They make their way to the edge of the land and show me the lush hills and mountains in the distance. Just a few years ago, this view was very different. 

In 2017, Puerto Rico was hit with the devastating storm known as Hurricane Maria. “I remember it was a big storm and it was scary,” says Ariana Vanessa. Her sister, Emily Rose, also remembers the tumultuous time. “The water flooded and it was hard for the neighbors from down the road to go up,” she says. 

The island lost an estimated 80% of its coffee trees, crippling an important sector of its economy. Working with local and international partners across sectors, TechnoServe is working to rebuild this industry, training thousands of smallholder coffee farmers like the Rodriguez family, to significantly increase their yields and help them access better farming supplies, financing, and markets.

Today, the futures of generations of farmers like the Rodriguez family are in the process of changing for the better. “My hope for my family is that we work together during the hardest times,” says Emily Rose, who dreams of working as a chocolatier one day with Ariana Vanessa. Adds her sister: “I wish for my family to succeed.” 

Ashley Thompson, TechnoServe Communications Specialist