Monday, April 22, 2013

Coffee Land

We spent last Tuesday through Friday back out in the campo in mountainous northern Nicaragua. We went to a coffee finca in the community of Sontule. It is part of the reserve area of Miraflor, which is managed by UCA, or the Union de cooperativas agriculturas. The finca we went to is a cooperative of women called Nueva almanacer, or New Dawn. Organizations of cooperatives like this gives small and medium scale farmers the access to credit, loans, and finance needed to participate in the market. The cooperative has a very rich history and represents the fight for women to have  both official and actual ownership of land within the context of their struggle to overcome machismo and the strong tradition of patriarch. The lands were attacked several times during the Contra war in the early 80s and their entire lands were burned by the (United States sponsored) regime. For this reason, the women and their families were risking their lives to join the new co-op at that time. Once again, communally held land seems to have been a real threat to the world.

 I will take you through our week in pictures.

Our host mom has the biggest, most beautiful garden. They call these strange plants Christmas trees.

This little guy hung around out hammock spot all week.

Plants that collect water while making their home on a tree branch.

Giant ants that come out at night.

These are coffee trees showing the tragic effects of La Roya. They will not have a full harvest again for 3-5 years. The tall trees provide shade for the coffee trees, hence the term "shade grown" coffee. This finca also grows organically and is a fair trade cooperative.

Ripe, freshly picked coffee beans. When a coffee tree is first planted it takes 3-5 years to produce coffee beans that can be made into coffee.
A tour through the journey a coffee bean takes.

This is where the milling takes place. This finca uses what is called wet milling.

The beans must be allowed to dry and ferment.

Here the channel is filled with water and the beans are put in. The good quality beans will sink and be separated. The entire process of readying a bean for roasting takes 3 months. We got to help roast the coffee we purchased from the community on the last night as well.

Our host mom´s garden has infant coffee trees.

When the trees grow they are placed in bags for a season and then moved to the hillsides

We visited the local school and played some sharks and minnows.

The sign outside our house.

We also had the opportunity to participate in a coffee cupping, where we sampled a few different types and qualities of coffee. Something very interesting we learned here is that about 85% of the coffee produced in Nicaragua is fair trade. Yet there is still widespread impoverishment among coffee producers, which in my mind is an easily observable critique of fair trade. I will be researching this for one of my classes and I am very curious to look into the effectiveness of fair trade labeling in Nicaragua. We also learned that while some of the world´s best coffee is grown in the country, most of it is exported and the typical Nicaraguan can´t afford this coffee and drinks instant coffee of the likes of NesCafe.

We also went on a gorgeous sunset hike to a lookout point over the mountains, to which these pictures do absolutely no justice!

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