Our trip started in Ecuador, at FAPECAFES, a 1700 member Fairtrade co-operative in the south of the country. After a quality control review, we travelled on to one of the primary associations, Procafe, where each of the 178 member farms is either organic or in transition. Procafe has focused its Fairtrade investment on mill improvements, technical training and African beds. Coffee rust is a big issue in this area but farmers are seeing some success with alternative varieties such as Catuai and Sachimor. Travelling on to Las Nubes, a small 3Ha farm at 620-800min Puyango district, we met farmer Jose Apolo. He knows all too well the problems of coffee rust and is now intercropping with sugar cane.
Producers like Daniel Castillo farm in the valleys around Vilcabamba, a place famed for the mysterious longevity of its inhabitants. At 66 Daniel simply puts his good health down to passion for his farm which covers two hectares in the valley. He’s been a member of Fapecafes for 8-years and produces high quality bourbon which he pulps and ferments on his farm. He’s invested in drying tables to increase the quality of his beans with Fairtrade and organic premiums.
We crossed the border into Peru and headed for Sol y Café close to Jaen. We’ve been sourcing coffee from this progressive group of nearly 1,200 producers since 2006. Our trip comprised quality control reviews at the receiving centre and some farms, as well as a number of cuppings.
Edward Troyes is part of a new breed of young farmers coming into coffee and joining Sol y Café. He’s keen to learn the best methods of production to enhance cup quality and is experimenting with a number of varieties. In the last three years he’s invested over $20,000 and planted 15,000 coffee plants on his farm which was formally grazing land.
He’s also regenerating indigenous trees there that help stabilise the steep hillside, act as a carbon sink, fix nitrogen for his coffee plants and create the special micro-climate that generates unique cup profiles.
Edward has planted Catimor, Castillo, Pache, Catura and Bourbon on his farm as a disease hedge. He is able to repay his investment within 2-3 seasons assuming he hits his yield target.
German Silva Vasquez farms “Parcela La Flor” with 5 Ha at 1,753m. He uses older varietals such as Caturra and Catuai.
Nino Elera has 5 hectares of coffee growing at 1,600m in San Jose de Alto. He has 80% Catimor and 20% Caturra on his farm with most of the plants being 4-6 years old. He’s invested in African beds where his coffee dries in 6-8 days.
Segundo Daniel Alarcon has 2.5 Ha with Catimor, Pache, Caturra, Bourbon and Costa Rica varieties. Daniel uses 8-10 hours fermentation and then African beds to dry the coffee. He has had the farm for 8 years and has been a member of Sol y Café since 2007. He has 10 children, all grown up with one daughter still at uni.
Towards the end of our trip we attended a producer meeting at San Lorenzo. San Jose de Alto has six producer groups of which two were represented (Cuenca del Paramillo and Casouo San Lorenzo). Fairtrade premiums have been used by the groups to purchase a generator, parchment cleanser, community warehouse and dryer. All have been focused around capacity building and have been co-funded by Sol y Café and community associations.