In December, CAN Executive Director Roseann Cohen, Associate Director Heather Putnam and Project Manager Maria Eugenia Flores traveled with executive team members of the coffee company Keurig Green Mountain (KGM) to visit CAN’s Food Security in Las Segovias Project in Northern Nicaragua. The group traveled two and a half hours from the hot and humid capital city of Managua to the highlands north of the city of Estelí where the farmers associated with PRODECOOP Cooperative live and cultivate high-quality coffee under the shade of the rainforest. Maria Eugenia filed this report.
KGM has supported CAN and PRODECOOP’s food security project with over 1500 coffee farming families for six years. The KGM team first met with PRODECOOP’s general manager, Merling Preza, who told them about the struggles that smallholder coffee farmers are facing, like increasingly severe droughts and flooding associated with climate change, that affect not only the coffee harvest, but also food production. We then traveled to PRODECOOP’s dry mill facility one hour north of Estelí, where the site of coffee beans drying and being raked in the sun reminded us that December is the height of the coffee harvest season here. From there we finally arrived at a remote farmer cooperative in the mountains, where we heard first hand from farming families the challenges of the last two years of drought and unstable coffee prices — but also about what they are doing to overcome those challenges and become more resilient — we saw home greywater recycling systems that would help irrigate vegetable gardens and coffee seedlings during the dry season, home vegetable gardens that are yielding nutritious food and new sources of income for families. The cooperative also had gathered a table full of locally-produced fruits and vegetables that demonstrated all of their efforts to diversify through the project.
At the PRODECOOP. R.L dry-mill where we spent the night, we had a wonderful experience in the coffee lab with Lindsey Bolger, who is considered a superstar in the cupping world. Four coffee samples were tasted. After almost an hour of a wonderful learning process, the result confirmed the high quality of PRODECOOP’s coffee. Lindsey said, “it was not a surprise; PRODECOOP has won coffee cups of excellence and the high quality of their coffee is an evidence of the farmer care — from production to exporting.”
After the visit, Monique Oxender, Chief Sustainability Officer for KGM, wrote to us: “We had a wonderful week and lots of van time to reflect on what we saw and what we learned and wanted to highlight a couple of things: We were all impressed by the degree of integration between CAN, the co-ops and the communities. It was clear that while CAN might have been the initial spark that got the project going, the communities were carrying forward the work on food diversification, home gardens and CADA management independently. We believe this is a testament of CAN’s great work. Thank you so much for all the work that you put into this visit and all your great work on the ground. After our trip, we better understand the challenges and opportunities in the coffeelands and CAN’s work in particular.”