02.06.22 The day we first set foot in Nicaragua...
From the moment we landed in the capital Managua, we were absorbed by the passionate and collaborative spirit of the Nicaraguan people. A trip were “It’s all part of the adventure” became an almost hourly saying, our introductory visit to Nicaragua was enlightening, challenging and full of future promise. From fixing broken down jeeps at the roadside, to treating infected mosquito bites (yes, ouch!) to meeting and sharing time and food with coffee farmers, we were continually met with friendly openness and a tenacious spirit that overcame the obstacles set in front of it.
Spending time with the umbrella cooperative, Cecocafen, in Mataglapa, we also met and shared lunch with the Cooperative Union of Women and learned that being part of the cooperative brings them job security, recognition for their often over looked work and equipment for their children’s schooling. Whilst the women shared with us their growth in confidence, the emerging success of their bakery enterprise (which they run out of coffee season to generate employment and income) they also spoke of continuing difficulties they face and the need to scale up their work to continue to provide stable income throughout the year.
Indeed, whilst stopping at the offices of Cecocafen later that evening we continued to learn of the biggest challenges facing Nicaraguan coffee from climate change, to instability in the market place, the issues with certification driving the price of producing coffee up as well as the rising cost of fertilisers and pesticides. Journeying into the mountains the next day, to the truly stunning Peñas Blancas (meaning White Rocks) nature reserve, we visited the farmers from Ricardo Aráuz Hernández (part of Uca La Dalia cooperative). Amid tropical thunderstorms interrupted briefly by the scorching sun, we explored the farms of both Juan Carlos and Bernadino and uncovered the remarkable biodiversity with which they cultivate their coffee - growing cacao and bananas together with coffee under 3 layers of shade to produce a better quality crop that also helps to serve the farm’s ecosystem.
Moreover, both farmers are using the waste products from wet processing the coffee on their own farms to compost and create bio fertilisers and natural pesticides. Juan Carlos took us through the process of mixing waste pulp with lime stone to create fertiliser at his farm, whilst at Bernadino’s farm and family home (after sharing lunch and animated discussion with farmer and family members) we were shown his innovative formula for natural crop treatment which won him a $600 award and paid for a second room to be built onto his house.
After spending the night in a hostel (where let’s just put it that nature and humanity were one) we bumped our way in the open back of the jeep across the mountains to Wiwili, home of La Providencia cooperative. Here we met the remarkable team of young entrepreneurs creating their own version of bio-fertilisers and pesticides in response to the global rising cost of conventional treatments and need for improved environmental protection. Over a 60 day process they create 4 products; a bio fertiliser, a fungus treatment, a treatment for “roya” (beetles well known in the coffee growing sector for destroying crops); and a foliar fertiliser that reproduces microorganisms from virgin soil to help the healthier growth of coffee trees.
The entrepreneurial youth of La Providencia, June '22
The youth team take waste products from the coffee farms and renew their use, including them in the new natural treatments. The team we met, comprising of equal female and male members, shared with us the rising demand for their enterprise and their desire to create a wider range of products in the future using advanced knowledge and training.
Now back on UK soil, we are in conversation with the cooperatives and pushing forward with plans for how our C2C Fund™ can help support the cooperatives and their key endeavours this year.
Stay tuned for more news over the coming weeks and months…