Stories of Change

Juan Ponce Perez
Juan in front of the new mill

Juan Ponce Perez

"We’re making improvements here" says Juan Ponce Perez a small-scale coffee farmer who is a member of PRODECOOP, a coffee farmers co-operative in Nicaragua. Juan is taking a break from his regular routine. Normally, he’d be busy picking coffee on his small farm, but right now he’s busy helping to put the finishing touches on to a gleaming new coffee wet processing mill being built by his local co-operative. It’s a hive of industry with several farmers pitching in, and the sound of hammering fills the air...

Completion of the mill – financed with the considerable help of capacity building funding provided to the group by Trade Aid – is going to benefit Juan and his fellow co-operative members in a number of ways, and he’s eager to help see the task through.

‘We’ve been washing our coffee in our back yards" says Juan, "but we know that even though our coffee is organic, we can still contaminate the local water supply with our run-off. The new mill is really careful with water; we’ll be using much less than we used to, and the water we do use will be treated and then recycled.’

The new mill will use settling ponds to capture any sediment that would otherwise run back into the environment. Juan’s village is surrounded by the Ecological Park of Cantagallo, an important habitat for orchids, toucans and howler monkeys, and the importance of protecting this natural reserve is not lost on the local coffee community. The water recycling facility will also help to ensure that the least water possible will be used during processing, an important feature in a region in northern Nicaragua where rainfall is becoming increasingly unreliable and where water shortages are predicted to become more common in the future.

The amount of time Juan will need to process his coffee will also be greatly reduced; the depulping machine that has been installed is motorized, and this feature will greatly cut back the time farmers often spend removing the pulp from their coffee using hand-powered depulpers. This, in turn, will allow Juan to have more time to make improvements to his farm with a view to increasing his harvest; it’s currently diminishing as his trees are well past their best producing years.

‘PRODECOOP has supported me a lot, and I’ve already replanted some of my farm with new trees but I’d like to do more. In three years from now, my production will start to increase. I plan to use the extra income a bigger harvest would bring to expand my farm and to improve my house. We have a mud floor and I’d like to tile it’.

Juan turns back to the task at hand. ‘Now we’re working quickly to finish our new mill, so that it’ll be ready before next year’s harvest’. The hammering resumes, as Juan and his fellow co-operative members continue to strive towards a more sustainable future; one that provides them with a better income, but which also takes care to minimize any impact they have on their local environment.
Read more about PRODECOOP - Promotora de Desarrollo Cooperativo de las Segovias »

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