Luis manuel almendarez y olga marina rodriguez - la guadalupana
I did not quite understand where I was when I arrived at La Guadalupana, there was a nice little house, farming tools, a wet mill and an excellent nursery. However, the only thing I could not spot was the coffee plantation it self. I humbly asked where the plantation was; Luis pointed to the forest. I had heard the term ‘shadow-grown’ before and always figured it would be a row of coffee trees with the occasional fruit tree to provide shade. However, this was beyond any of my expectations of the phenomena of shade-grown coffee; the plantation is hidden underneath the dense canopy. Preserving the environment here is of key-importance as the only water-source in this community is to be found on La Guadulapana’s lands. T
It is hard not to feel touched by the story of Luis and Olga, this is a real-life example of sustainable development through empowerment. They do not not farm coffee for themselves, this farm has always been dedicated to their daughters, to finance their studies and to provide stability in their future. The farm actually consists of two separate parts, Olga´s lots and Luis´ lots. Much of the land in the community is owned by people from Olga´s family. In fact, before Luis bought ´his´ lots it used to be owned by a relative of Olga. When this relative passed away the land was sold to Luis in order to keep it in the family. Nowadays La Guadalupana provides fresh water to most of the community, donated the local football field and offer wet milling service to those without the machinery. This farm, under the care of Luis and Olga is a central point in this small rural community.
This became possible when Luis left his family to work in Miami about fifteen years ago. He worked in construction, gardening and other jobs in which he improved his craftsmanship, a skill that received recognition over the years. Nevertheless, the big city life was not his thing, but it was a sacrifice that had to be made for the future of his farm and family.
Upon returning to the simple ´campesino´ life in El Horno the focus could be on developing the farm. As part of a large cooperative the farm became UTZ-certified, something a handful of coop leaders pushed onto the farmers with promises of premiums. La guadalupana was among the twenty percent of farms that gave it a 100% to comply with the new strict conditions. However not much of the promised premiums were given to the farmers. Even worse, the premiums that did go to the farmers were distributed amongt the entire coop, including the 80 percent of farmers who did not invest any time or resource to adhere to the standards. Furthermore, this project took away most of the bargaining power the farm has, coffee had to be sold to an appointed dry mill with no interest in quality nor traceability.
Luckily, times changed when Luis started working with Expocamo. In consultancy with the agronomists the cultivation of specialty coffee began and with it the economic potential it offers. The farm has been in renovation ever since. Small parcels at a time are being planted with catuaí, java and pacamara instead of catimor. So far only A and double A grade coffee have come from La Guadalupana, but with the new parcel of Java the aim is to reach triple A as well. With these improvements Luis and Olga hope to build the brand of his farm; something they proudly tell about to their neighbors. Not everybody in this community believes in his way of working, but they believe that this is the key to success.
Relationships are important at La Guadalupana, this is why they work with the same 9 people year-round. These people now form a close-knit group within the community. Every two weeks the worker´s families are invited at La Guadalupana to share a meal, play some football and get to know each other better. In this aspect Luis wants to comply with one thing before he dies: show his workers the sea. A beauty he believes that should not be limited to pictures.
In the 2016-2017 harvest the yield have quadrupled compared to the year before and quality has become more consistent. The Java plot is healthy and under the watchful eye of Luis and Expocamo´s agronomists. This harvest also marked the first steps for income diversification through local tourism projects at La Guadalupana. Soon cabins will be build to host tourists for overnight stays, which offers a myriad of new opportunities for the farm.
El Horno, Dipilto, Nueva Segovia
1350 meters above sea level
Catuaí, Java, Maragogype