The past week was a whirlwind. We had a meeting first thing Monday morning with IPSA, Nicaragua’s department of Agriculture and Livestock, who will ultimately be responsible for certifying nurseries. Afterward, we drove three hours north for two days of interviews with more exporters and cooperatives, followed by two days of training with four pilot producers that will be a part of our nursery certification program.

Our meetings were in Esteli, Ocotal, and Dipilto – notorious for the highest quality coffee in Nicaragua. I immediately felt a shift in our conversations; these exporters and producers have an automatic advantage simply because the region is already internationally recognized for its excellence. Let’s say the average NY exchange price in 2015 for conventional coffee was $140/quintal (100lbs); some of the exporters (who are producers themselves) we met with sold microdots between $800-900/quintal. Huge difference! Rightfully so, they are very proud of their region and production and were eager to treat us to some of their superb coffee. Fine by us!

From Esteli we drove another 1.5 hours north to Ocotal to meet the four producers who are on track to have the first certified nurseries in Nicaragua. IPSA has established protocols/norms that these producers must follow prior to obtaining this certification (purchase certified seeds, have the plants in an enclosed area, protection from animals, appropriate irrigation, etc), and instead of assisting them with just that, we are helping them build a business model for long term sustainability and success. I will be working with Denis – a small producer (ie owns <10 mz/25 acres) from Murra whose plants are already 15 weeks old. We evaluated client frustrations/needs, built a hypothesis of the problem, and created a value proposition for his product (certified nursery).

Outside of where our training took place there was a guava tree which had the most intense, fabulous smell. I wish you had been there to smell it because simply writing about it doesn’t do it justice. After all my oohing and ahhing whenever I passed the tree, a couple of the guys climbed it and grabbed one for me to try. Talk about farm to table (or in this case branch to hand?) – it was divine.

The Volunteer

Tana Megalos

Associate-Internal Advisor Consultant, GWM

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