We started the week with an early morning drive to Ocotal, a pretty town in the department [state] of Nueva Segovia where we had scheduled three days of workshops on the business model of the certified nurseries. Our deliverables for this week comprised of SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and financial analysis. In terms of market opportunities, there is a growing demand for new coffee varieties. In 2012-2013 there was an outbreak of roya (coffee leaf rust disease) which affected 37% of Nicaraguan farmers who are now looking to renovate their plants by introducing varieties that are resistant to plagues and deliver good quality and higher yields. The farmers we work with will be the first on the market to offer plants certified on their origin and quality by the agricultural ministry which gives this project even more importance.

On Tuesday we travelled to the farms owned by our producers. With the farms located on the side of the mountains, I was again caught by their beauty. Ninety five percent of Nicaraguan coffee is grown in the shade of other trees which helps preserve the biodiversity of the environment (impacted by deforestation and soil erosion).

We were also introduced to a farmer’s family and as I listened to him talk about his coffee production, I kept wondering about the discrepancies in prices. Ever (the farmer) produces commercial coffee whose price is linked to NYC futures contract for Arabica. Last year he received $1 for a pound of his coffee which translates into roughly three cents from each cup we pay $3 for. The remaining $2.97 is spread between everyone else in the value chain (intermediary, exporter, roaster, coffee shop). That’s why the work of TechnoServe is extremely valuable – TechnoServe provides technical assistance which helps farmers increase productivity and produce better quality coffee for higher prices and that in turn can make the farmers less dependent on the price dictated by the market far away from their homeland.

Back in Managua we continued developing our presentation on specialty coffee. We spent lots of time analyzing the data we collected through the interviews and backing it up with the appropriate sources which proved challenging at times. With only three weeks left, we are working hard to clarify our findings and put together impactful interventions.

The Volunteer

Marzena Loos

Senior Associate, Shareholder Services & Funds Administration

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