Part 2: In Guatemala, Environmental Awareness Starts on the FarmAugust 30, 2010
Returning to the office to share some of his own coffee, Augusto Morales — manager of the Las Brisas coffee cooperative — is keen to show off his new administrative improvements. “It was difficult for us to get used to documenting the details, but now we benefit from it,” he comments. “By looking at these records, I can see which areas produce more coffee and which ones produce better quality coffee.” It’s incredibly unique for a rural farmer to keep organized records of production levels and possess the skills to monitor data on fertilizer applications.
Back near the mill, safety signs are placed around machinery for the welfare of workers. All waste is segregated and disposed of efficiently, including any plastic bottles that once contained pesticides. Before joining the program, Morales informs me, waste was often discarded on site and contaminated water would pollute soils and nearby streams. There is now an understanding between farmers and workers within the co-op that keeping their farms and the mill clean will benefit the environment, the local community and also their coffee beans.
A new filter purifies dirty water, meaning the co-op has reduced its water use dramatically. Organic soil is produced within the co-op using the pulp from the coffee bean; it is then sold back to the farmers at discounted rates to further discourage them from using chemicals. The soil is rich in organic matter and provides the best nutrients for the coffee plants.
My visit has made one thing clear: the Rainforest Alliance and Nestlé Nespresso’s joint initiative is a huge success. It’s producing sustainable, high-quality coffee — and transforming the way that a collection of farmers view their trade and their obligation to the environment.
All of this work has been made possible thanks to the Federation of Coffee Cooperatives of Guatemala, whose technical team has spent years providing assistance to small coffee producers in the country, and Efico, a coffee trading group that has provided important support in the development of the Guatemalan coffee sector.
*In 2003, the Rainforest Alliance and Nestlé Nespresso joined forces to promote environmental sustainability and social responsibility on farms that produce coffee for the gourmet espresso company. This collaboration deepened in June 2009, with Nespresso’s commitment to source 80 percent of its beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified or AAA verified farms by 2013.