In 2016 we discovered that our farmer's children were not attending school, and the main reason was, that they could not afford it. So the company started a scholar program to support the education of our worker’s children.
The Scholar Support Program provides the funds necessary at the beginning of each new school year to buy uniforms, shoes, books, notebooks, backpacks, lunchboxes, and stationary.
Without the funds to buy these basic necessities, the kids were not being sent to school.
We have also assisted some older students who have graduated high school by helping with laptops and providing access to software and tools such Microsoft Office. This may seem like a trivial thing in the western world but these things are simply out of reach for your average coffee farmers.
We have 65 children of school age, and 59 of them are participating in the scholar support program. Including some children of farmers who don't actually work for us but asked if they could participate.
We provide the funding and tools, and at the end of each trimester, they present their scholar report to follow their academic performance and attendance.
Our adult workers have the opportunity to continue their high school studies and work at the same time. After their daily shift on the farm, they then study in the evenings. They also receive a bonus at the beginning of the school year to buy their supplies.
Now that the kids are in school, and their husbands are gainfully employed and paid every Friday, the mothers now have a chance to think about what they want to do, and many of them have returned to school, as part of the program.
For 5 or 6 years now the company has sponsored the Fundacion Folklorica Jose Corella. The group is composed of 100 dancers that represent Panama in Europe, South America, and North America.
The foundation offers different workshops: singing, percussion classes, national dancing, violin lessons, and hand-crafting of “tembleques” (traditional jewelry). The main focus of the group is to keep the national traditions alive and well with young people.
In addition to our direct employees and local groups, the company currently supports 35 families in the local Boquete community, through a local charity called Buenos Vecinos (good neighbors). As their only corporate sponsor, our monthly donations are a vital contribution needed to feed and cloth these families who have no other means of support.
When we started acquiring coffee farms in 2014, we noticed very quickly that the Owners of the land tended to be very well off, but the native Indian Gnobe Bugle workers who lived on the farms and did all the work, lived in squalid conditions. Living in old tin shacks, with dirt floors, cooking over wood fires, and with a hole in the ground for a latrine.
As we set out to create passive income for our investors, it was imperative to us that the coffee farm workers also participated financially, and, that they had a clean, safe place to call home and raise a family.
Careful not to interfere in their native cultures by imposing our western way of doing things, we collaborated with locals and constructed new and improved accommodations, in the simple style they are accustomed to.
Now with poured concrete floors, running potable water, flush toilets and a septic system, gas stoves, and electricity or solar power, welded steel-framed beds, and 6-inch mattresses, our workers and their families have a clean, safe and stable place to call home and to get a good nights rest after a hard day of coffee farming.
Southern Belize is full of smallholder, subsistence cacao farmers who are stuck in a cycle of poverty. They have had no reliable, consistent channel to market to sell their beans.
First, we are helping to educate these local farmers in modern farming practices to improve their production and the quality of their cacao.
Each week, our participating farmers harvest only the ripe pods from the cacao trees. The wet beans are carefully extracted by the farmers and picked up by our bean buying team within six hours of being harvested. We pay the farmers every week in cash for their wet cacao beans.
After careful transportation through the lush Belize mountains, the beans arrive at our centralized processing facility in Crique Jute Village to begin the all-important process of fermentation.
Through these efforts, we are helping to bridge the gap between these farmers and the current and quickly growing number of chocolate companies who are looking for Belize’s excellent, fine flavor cacao. We can now provide a steady, reliable channel to market, paying sustainable and fair prices for their quality cacao, to help them grow their farming operations, so that they can provide a better life for their families.
Peini Cacao Plantation is the cacao farming arm of AgroNosotros in Belize and has developed a relationship with the association of local Maya cacao farmers. We worked together to build our cacao sapling nurseries with a current capacity annually of 50,000 cacao saplings and to develop a sapling program. Up to 35,000 of these saplings were supplied for free to local subsistence farmers in our bean-buying program, who ordinarily could not afford to buy new saplings for their farms.
A closed loop system relates to a process in which sub-products are recycled, treated, and/or returned for reuse. At our mill on Cuatro Caminos in Boquete, Panama, we understand that applying a closed-loop philosophy not only benefits the environment around us, but also provides many advantages for our own coffee processing system.
Inefficient water use is one of the biggest problems that traditional wet-mills face. In fact, the traditional systems can use more than 75 liters per kilogram of water for conveyance, floating, de-pulping, fermentation, and washing coffee during the milling process.
To rectify this situation, we decided to invest in an ecological mill that only uses 10% of the water used in traditional mills. To do so, we substitute the water conveyance method of processing coffee cherries with the mechanical conveyance. In addition, the mucilage is removed mechanically with a specialized machine, replacing the fermentation step that uses large amounts of water.
Even with our use of modern technology, our eco-friendly mill still uses a small volume of water that cannot be returned untreated directly into a stream or on the farms after being used. In the coffee sector, we refer to it as “honey waters” and at Cuatro Caminos Coffee we use it in our vermicomposting process.
Truly a closed-loop system!
The vermicomposting system is biotechnology that manages the intensive breeding of earthworms in specialized beds transforming fresh organic substrate into more suitable material for plants.
Here, the pulp and coffee mucilage produced in the wet mill is used to obtain humus and leachates (or worm exudate), both highly valuable products for soil improvement purposes.
Although many earthworm species have the capacity to carry out this type of biological process, the California Red worm (Scientific name: Eisenia foetida) is the “species par excellence” used in vermicomposting systems, and there are plenty of reasons. Among them are its high reproductive rate, lack of migratory habits, good response to captivity, and accelerated metabolism.
After a complex biochemical transformation, the worms acquire nutrients from the pulp and mucilage of pre-processed coffee. Once it travels through the digestive system, worms excrete a dark material we called “humus”. In addition, the worm releases a liquid exudate, which also has usable properties for the soil.
Drying is the final step to producing green beans. At our mill, we manage two systems: patio drying and dynamic machinery. In the patio, the heat source is basically the sun.
However, in the dynamic machine, we obtain the energy for drying by burning a fuel source. In the past, we used wood. However, now that we are producing green coffee for export, the final peeling process provides a large amount of parchment that we now use as a fuel source for our dryers.
Parchment is the covering of the green bean that represents 4.2% of the dry fruit. It is mainly lignocellulose (same as wood), and therefore can be used as a high-quality fuel source to heat our dryers. In fact, the heat generated by parchment is a little higher than wood which means that we are not only eliminating our use of wood but replacing it with a sustainable source of fuel.