Rising to the coffee challenge: high yields, high quality and environmental sustainability

Rising to the coffee challenge: high yields, high quality and environmental sustainability

Wilson Olivera, President of Cenfrocafe (left), and Ronny García, Cenfrocafe CEO (right).August 22 2018

“It’s not easy to grow in a sustainable way”, says Wilson Olivera, President of Peruvian coffee cooperative Central Fronteriza del Norte de Cafetaleros (Cenfrocafe).

Yet, this Oikocredit partner cooperative’s members have managed to significantly increase their coffee yield, while also ensuring the sustainable use of land.

Wilson Olivera, President of Cenfrocafe (left), and Ronny García, Cenfrocafe CEO (right).

High yields and sustainable practices

Widely recognised as one of the top organic fair-trade certified coffee cooperatives in Peru, Cenfrocafe was founded in 1999 and is based in the Cajamarca region. It represents more than 100 grassroots organisations, with more than 2,600 members producing around 210,000 quintales of coffee (around 9.6 million kg) per year.

“Growing in an environmentally sustainable way is a challenge as we have been affected by coffee rust, insect plagues and heavy rains in the last few years,” says Wilson Olivera.

Despite these challenges, Cenfrocafe members managed to produce around 1,200 kg per hectare in 2017, almost double the average in Peru (650 kg per hectare).

Supporting smallholder farmers

“Cenfrocafe creates opportunities for its members at commercial, social and financial levels. We search for the best markets to sell coffee at a good price and provide post-harvesting support for export,” says CEO Ronny García.

The cooperative supports smallholder farmers:

  • Through micro loans to cover pre-harvesting costs, maintain farms, buy land and machines, and cover health and education expenses. We also offer disaster relief funds, and education scholarships.
  • Through capacity building: Five agronomists and ten promoters (linked to smaller associations) provide technical support on sustainable farming practices. They also emphasise women’s inclusion and participation in the process.
  • Through encouraging fair trade and organic production and paying out premiums.

Cenfrocafe member farmer Juan Jimenez holding up a poster for his organic fair trade coffee.

Stronger together: the role of associations

The cooperative is made up of smaller associations of 25-30 members so they can support one another and be represented in decision-making for the wider cooperative.

“We distinguish ourselves, not by having the most members but by carefully selecting our members. While other cooperatives admit new members immediately after paying an entrance fee, our members have to pass demanding criteria to join an association and are evaluated after one year before becoming a permanent member,” says Wilson Olivera.

Cenfrocafe produces specialty coffees from 18 varieties of coffee grown by its members.

Working with Oikocredit for a better future

Oikocredit’s partner since 2010, the most recent investment in 2016 was a loan of US$ 2 million for seven years, to be used for working capital and the construction of a new processing plant.

In future, Cenfrocafe will greatly benefit from having its own processing plant instead of using an external one:

  • Saving on transportation costs and travel time as the plant will be geographically closer to the farmers.
  • Increasing income with the production of higher volumes of high quality organic fair trade coffee suitable for export.
  • Enhancing environmentally sustainable practices as the coffee shell ‘waste’ from the plant can be used as biofuel.

Cenfrocafe has also participated in Oikocredit’s price risk management programme to help farmers mitigate the effects of fluctuations in coffee prices on international markets. Read more on that here.

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