Sunday, January 11, 2009

Leaning about Coffee, trip to Porvenir, Jan. 8

We were up early again on Thursday, Jan. 8, to make our way to El Porvenir--a coffee cooperative and one of PGL´s latest projects. Traveling there took several hours. We left from Leon via our microbus and drove on a paved road for about 30 minutes and then a dirt road for 90 minutes. When the microbus could go no further, we got off the bus with our backpacks and boarded a tractor with a wagon in tow. With 18 of us and a few Nicaraguans also riding along, we stood in the wagon for almost an hour as we made our way up the mountainside. Most of the time, it was difficult to hold on and the tractor was going straight up man-made ramps with little switchbacks. It was a nervous-fun as we made our way to the mountain-top community of El Porvenir.

Upon arriving at the top, it was clear to everyone that the time spent traveling was worth it. El Porvenir is a peaceful and beautiful community of about 300 people who work on hundreds of acres producing organic coffee, cocoa, cotton, and a few other crops for their community. Their primary crop is coffee. Everyone in the community is responsible for different aspects of growing, harvesting, sorting, preparing, bagging, and distributing the coffee. PGL is currently working to bring water to the community via a water-pump system as they have no running water or electricity. Currently, they collect water during the rainy season in three 10,000 to 20,000-gallon metal open tanks that will sustain them for a few months. When they run out, they have to transport water from the base of mountain. The community has a school and we were able to take some time in the afternoon to play games with the kids: Luz Rojo, Luz Verde (Red Light, Green Light), Simon Dice (Simon Says), and drawing and coloring for the younger ones. We had a blast! We spent time with Rene, a leader of the cooperative, who talked to us about the coffee business, opportunities and challenges, fair trade, and the future of this co-op. It was stunning to learn what the farmers are paid for the coffee vs. what companies are able to sell the finished product. We took a hike to the top of one of the mountains for a view of El Salvador and Honduras. It was amazing! We stayed overnight at El Porvenir -- sleeping on hammocks and cots with a view of the valley below and in perfect position for a gorgeous sunrise.

Friday morning we got back on the tractor wagon and made our way to some coffee plants with beans that needed to be picked. Working two to a basket, we picked coffee for about an hour. A basket of coffee beans is worth about 17$ Cordobas (less than $1 U.S.) and most can fill about 7 baskets a day. Each group of two filled about half the basket, and as a group, we picked about 50 pounds of coffee. This co-op sells its coffee directly to two U.S. roasters who pay them $2 U.S. per pound -- a very good price. This coffee is then sold through a grassroots network and has made its way to Gettysburg throughout the year for purchase. We returned, gathered our things, said goodbye to the community, and made our way down the mountain. We returned to our host families a little dusty and tired, but what we learned while spending time in El Porvenir will stay with many of us for a lifetime.

Tomorrow, a day of rest at la playa (the beach)! Till then, Chau!

No comments:

Post a Comment