December 21, 2016

How Can Mentorship Improve Coffee Quality & Producer Incomes?


What would happen if we reached out to low-income coffee producers and arranged for them to have the contacts, training, and information needed to go from commodity to specialty?

That question formed the basis of our new PDG Mentorship Programme.

SEE ALSO: Why Sustainability Must Be Community-Oriented and Community-Led

Indigenous Guatemalan coffee producers

Lesi Ruiz and Yuli López, Guatemalan producers who PDG worked with as part of the Mentorship Programme. Credit: PDG

What Is the PDG Mentorship Programme?

Guatemala. December 2016. We worked together with multiple allies to ask how can we improve our relationship with producing countries.

As a team, we want to pave the way for more people to build meaningful relationships within this industry. We want to be proactive in ensuring that producers and their communities are hindered only by their ambitions, not by a lack of resources or connections.

And so we asked the Guatemalan Chapter of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) to recommend two low-income women Women’s Federation, and then connected them with those organizations and stakeholders best situated to support them: Anacafé, agronomists, roasters, and exporters. We coordinated activities that will open the way for strengthening and promoting their coffee: cuppings, trainings, support in building raised beds, and more.

And the most vital task of our programme was listening. We paid real attention to what producers had to tell us about the everyday reality of the Guatemalan coffee community. And from that we set out to develop a programme that meets their needs.

How did we do this? Simple, by creating connections.

Meet Lesi Ruiz and Yuli López

Lesi Ruiz and Yuli López are two producers from the Comal Cooperative, in the Western Highlands. They live nearby in Huixoc, Huehuetenango, where they own small plots of land.

Huehuetenango is a remote region, where most producers process their own coffee, although Lesi and Yuli both do it at the cooperative. There they also receive assistance from the Federación Comercializadora de Café Especial de Guatemala (FECCEG), a non profit organization dedicated to the marketing and trading of specialty Guatemalan coffee.

Cafe Divino Guatemala

Amec of PDG, Lesi, Celeste Fumagalli of the IWCA, Yuli, Karla of PDG, Henry of PDG, and Teco Echevarría of Café Divino (left to right). Credit: Cafe Divino

Connecting With Producers

When building our programme, we asked ourselves:

  • How can we support a producer in going from commercial to specialty?
  • How do we provide better resources and training to producers so they can make informed decisions about how to increase the quality of their coffee?
  • How can we provide spaces for producers to share their experiences and support each other?

Coffee cupping

Teco Echevarría (center) leads a cupping class in Café Divino with Lesi and Yuli. Credit:PDG

Connecting With Collaborators

We organized around the idea of  building bridges between the members of the coffee community. When a barista, an agronomist, a taster, a roaster, and a coffee association all collaborate with a producer, sharing their expertise and resources, then we can provide support and resources to them. By asking for help and working together, we can create a healthier, more stable coffee community.

brix measurement

Manolo Muralles of Las Delicias Coffee explains brix, the measurement of a coffee’s sugar content, to Yuli and Mariela. Credit: PDG

Connecting With The Local Community

In the PDG Mentorship Programme, our efforts are supported by farms and local coffee shops as well as international stakeholders. We know that, when it comes to mentorship, the best resources are those provided by the local community. And so there was no need for us to arrive with hundreds of suitcases and equipment to organize this programme.

Instead, simply by asking for help and working together, we were able to create a unique space: one that facilitated knowledge sharing and training.

sample roasting

Marvin Medina of Anacafé, the Guatemalan national association of coffee, leads a roasting course for Lesi and Yuli. Credit: PDG

We plan to share Lesi and Yuli’s story as it develops with you. Just as the PDG Mentorship Programme provides them with the resources and connections they need to improve their coffee quality and incomes, they will share their knowledge with other producers. They’ll do this both in their local community and online, through Perfect Daily Grind.

We want to strengthen the coffee industry by supporting producers, the people at the core of it all.  And we want to see its impact spread, from two producers to communities and networks that reach across continents. Because connections are key to improving our beloved industry.

With thanks to Anacafé, Teco Echevarría of Cafe Divino, Manolo Muralles of Las Delicias Coffee, and the FECCEG (in no particular order) for their support in implementing the PDG Mentorship Programme.

Perfect Daily Grind

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