Always Improving

By: Dana Foster

The Cooperative Union de Ejidos y Comunidades San Fernando was established in 1988, and is comprised of 1300 indigenous members, most of who produce coffee at an altitude between 1200 – 1600 masl. Women producers account for nearly 40% of total membership. This group is managed as an “ejido”, and functions a bit differently than a typical cooperative. Essentially, an ejido is a piece of land farmed communally under a system supported by the state and the group collectively makes decisions on how to farm their land. They are not interested in growing membership, as they believe growth will make it more difficult to assist individual producers adequately.

San Fernando members are very aware of the effects that climate change has on their crops. Witnessing firsthand how the earth’s rising temperature influences coffee production, community members realized the need for renovation about 12 years ago, long before the worst Roya hit the area. They began to see decreased yields and after seeking advice from an agricultural engineer, they decided to plant at higher elevations to achieve improved cup score and greater production per hectare. Currently, the group is focused on planting Costa Rica 95, Bourbon 300 and Pache Colis, and planting Catimor and Sarchimor in lower elevations. Producers have an average of 2 hectares and while under renovation, they can still produce between 8-15 quintales of parchment per hectare.  Members who have gone through full renovation may see yields of 25 quintales per hectare, which is quite promising. San Fernando has their own dry mill, and they began working with Exportadora Cafe California several years ago to gain better access to the market as well as direct communication with the buyers who are looking for high quality certified coffees.

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