Our second week consisted of travelling to the north regions of the country – Jinotega and Matagalpa – and conducting interviews with seven different organizations. The coffee industry is very fragmented in that of 44,000 farmers most are considered small farmers with less than 10 manzanas (manzana means an apple or in this case a unit of area used in Central America which is equivalent to 1.74 acres). Meanwhile, three major exporters capture more than 50% of all exports.

Our first meeting was with the association representing producers in Matagalpa. Their latest project is opening a laboratory which will allow farmers to test the quality of their coffee. This could be a great initiative because the lack of information and coffee classification are big challenges preventing farmers from negotiating a better price.

The rest of the meetings were between exporters and cooperatives of different size and market power. While the two main exporters are part of global companies, cooperatives are more complex in the role they play. Essentially, they are organizations of producers who are simultaneously exporters and work toward community goals. The smallest co-op we met with represents 260 organic producers in Jinotega and has one major buyer from Austria. Farmers in Nicaragua speak proudly of their environmentally friendly practices, however organic farming is less productive and the lack of more buyers is also an issue.

A personal highlight of the trip was a visit to the farm. We got to see (and touch) the coffee trees growing their precious coffee cherries (still green at this time of the year). I felt very grateful for this experience especially as I learn more about the efforts involved in coffee farming.

Another educational visit was to a nursery where baby trees are grown and sold to the farmers at the age of 18-20 weeks. It takes 3-4 years for a coffee tree to be productive and this is just the beginning of the process which turns the beans into our cup of coffee. Next week we will start working directly with four nurseries on our certification project and after being back in the TechnoServe office we received three days training on the business canvas model. All in all this week has been packed with meetings, information and experience!

The Volunteer

Marzena Loos

Senior Associate, Shareholder Services & Funds Administration

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