Honduran farmers make first shipment of 'Direct Trade' coffee
By Matt De Kam
The concept of exporting coffee from the producers in El Carrizal came from a special relationship between the “Carpenteros and Friends” and members of the Christian Reformed Church in El Carrizal. The Carpenteros had been involved in several community development projects in the village through Diaconia Nacional (the social ministry of the Honduran CRC).
During their time in El Carrizal they got to know Claudio Salinas and Fredy Padilla, and also had the chance to taste their coffee, which was noticeably flavourful. Since then the idea of exporting some of that coffee has been brewing in the minds of both the Carpenteros and the brothers from El Carrizal.The Ag/Env program coordinators of Diaconia have been meeting at least once per month with the group of coffee producers in El Carrizal for over a year now. The first few meetings focused on forming the group and establishing a directive board that can function on its own. Once the board was formed we moved on to the requirements for producing quality coffee with help from the Honduran Coffee Institute (IHCAFE). We have had several meetings with the local IHCAFE engineers and promoters.
The group decided on the name “Asocacion de Cafeteleros Rio Olancho”, or “ACRO” which means “Association of Coffee Producers, Olancho River”. This name is because most of the farms are along the Olancho river up in the mountains.
Here is a list of the producers:
Claudio Salinas - President
Fredy Padilla - Vice-President
Arnulfo Salinas - Treasurer
Alejandro Padilla - Secretary
Raul Padilla - Fiscal Officer
Antonio Sauceda - Vocal
Julio Cesar Medina
Jose Mario Saramiento
Martir Gerardo Sauceda
I was able to go up to the mountain to the coffee farms and see the post-harvest processing facility that Raul Padilla owns and is making available to the group for processing their coffee. It is well designed and able to produce quality coffee. The farm is beautiful also; full of shade trees and very well kept up. The elevation is between 1,200 and 1,500 meters which is good for producing quality coffee.
High in the mountains east of the village is where the farms are located. While approaching the area it is hard to recognize the farms because it all looks like virgin forest. The coffee is produced under plenty of diverse shade as can be seen in the photo to the left. The wooden sign (left) says “Let’s take care of the forest”.
The coffee produced in these remote mountains is virtually free of chemical inputs. The weeds are controlled by hand chopping with machetes. The coffee borer is controlled using integrated pest management which includes small traps in 2-liter bottles and the release of wasps which are a natural predator. This is done with the help of IHCAFE. The only synthetic input that some of the farmers use is granular fertilizer which is placed in the soil at the foot of each coffee plant.
This year was a difficult year for harvesting because it rained a lot during the time when the farmers were trying to dry their coffee on patios and screens. The lack of plastic hoop solar dryers caused some of the group to get nervous about the quality of their coffee. In many cases the farmers had coffee drying on the patios when a large rainstorm came through. This re-wetting of coffee often times hurts the quality and many of these farmers opted to ask some of the other group members to cover their portion of the coffee because the lost confidence in the quality. This was somewhat unfortunate because not all members contributed to the final lot of coffee this year because they were scared of the risk. However, these members continue to be an active part of the group and have been coordinating a better system for drying the coffee in the coming year. All of the group members are excited about the prospects of exporting coffee because it could create a more sustainable business environment for them instead of the huge fluctuations of the general coffee market. We hope that you enjoy the coffee and that we can send you the small lot that we have prepared this year.
Here is a photo of Raul Padilla, who is the group member that has offered the use of his processing facility to the rest of the group. In the next photo we see the area where the coffee pulp is turned into fertilizer using vermi-composing.