Equator Travel Blog

Origin trip to Ecuador and Colombia - November 2008

Posted on Nov 19, 2008 Bookmark and Share

by David Pohl
I am just back from a spectacular trip to Ecuador and Colombia, having firmed up existing relationships and started new ones. I was in Colombia for the Let's Talk Coffee event hosted by Sustainable Harvest, which brings together stakeholders from across the industry to "talk coffee" in a very concentrated and personal way over the course of a long weekend. In particular the coffees from Ecuador, Tanzania and Rwanda are all exceeding our expectations and are due in by the end of the year.

El Batan Farmer Juan Alberto Rosillo  The Ecuador El Batan Special Reserve coffee we will be offering customers is a beautiful example of a high grown Andean coffee, full of citrus and cream notes.  The Tanzania Kanyouvu has become nearly a signature coffee after just two years of intensive work on the part of Sustainable Harvest in the Kigoma region of Tanzania.  Last year it was a good coffee, this year expect an outstanding coffee.  And the Rwanda MIG Buremera just took top honors in the Cup of Excellance this month.  While our lot is not specifically the auction lot, the strong showing in the COE demonstrates a focus on quality throughout the Buremera cooperative and the pre-ship samples we tasted were very impressive indeed.   Look for these three coffees by the first of the new year. In addition to these coffees we are developing relationships with growers in Colombia, Honduras and Bolivia that will be added to our lineup in coming seasons. Post Let's Talk Coffee I traveled on to Ecuador to meet with grower partners in the south of the country.  The purpose was to see first hand the work of the FAPECAFES cooperative and decide how to invest a micro-loan we had promised to the community of El Batan.  I traveled with a photographer, Cly Enos, who captured the trip on film.  Here are a few of the pics he took. My overall impression of Fapecafes could not be more positive as that entity has made Ecuador a real player in the specialty coffee industry over the course of a few years.  Ecuador is now producing some of the most unique coffees in South America, and with more development future harvests are sure to be even better. 

The bottom line for Fapecafes and Ecuador is that the growing conditions are ideal except for inconsistent rains, which wreak havoc on yields and overall quality.  Climate change and deforestation have exacerbated this situation.  The solution is widespread adoption of irrigation systems, but this is very expensive.  The challenge is getting access to credit, something the US is now more aware of given the troubles in the credit market.  For the members of Fapecafes credit is quite honestly impossible to get - local banks just won't loan to small producers.  So the task of lending falls to the cooperative, but the cooperative itself must be sure it has the capacity to administer loans to individual members so that it does not find itself in a tricky situation that could threaten the solvency of the organization.  Fapecafes is currently going through a capacity building process that will allow it to access international credit and use it responsibly for the betterment of the organization.      The micro-credit loan we are providing to Fapecafes will be used for improvements to the quality control facilities in the El Batan community.  These funds will be used to buy equipment to test recently harvested coffee at the community level, something the coffee farmers of El Batan have never been able to do.  The equipment will be installed in the new community building El Batan is constructing (see pics).     I was honored to be able to visit Fapecafes and El Batan and look forward to strengthing this fruitful relationship over the coming years.  More Pics of Ecuador
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