Field Study and Service-Learning MediaBlog

30 May, 2011

Achiote: Community Coffee & Environment Association

The coffee processing facility shown in this picture belongs to the members of the Asociacion Comunidad Cafe y Ambiente (Community Coffee & Environment Association). This blog will discuss the ways in which this coffee processing plant and the group of people who operate it form a system that is economically feasible and socially desirable. This association is an example of a sustainable business that demonstrates sustainable agriculture and land use, and contributes to community development. The group has lost many of its members because people have decided to work independently, but the remaining members continue to benefit themselves and help their community by working cooperatively.

The Foundations of a Sustainable Business
The founding of this program was economically feasible because the group worked as a team to build the facility. As shown in the pictures, adults and children worked along with a member of the Peace Corps to construct the building we visited. Because they worked together as a community, the group saved money on constructing that facility. Also, the building is lit through windows on all sides so there is no need for electrical lighting. The open windows allow ventilation so air conditioning is not needed, either. These sustainable building techniques save money for the organization.

Economic Development as a Team
Working together as a group makes for a more economically viable and sustainable business for the members of the association. All of the coffee farmers need access to a pilandora (processing machine) to separate the coffee beans from the shells. By sharing this pilandora, each member of the group can use it for much cheaper than it would cost to use the private one down the road. Also, by selling as a group, the members can get a higher price for their coffee than they would if they sold individually. The members share knowledge on farming sustainability which helps them better their own farming and harvesting techniques and gain more from their work. The entire coffee farming process becomes more efficient thanks to the partnership these people have formed.

Community Development
Education is the means of furthering sustainable development, because it is necessary for the implementation of sustainable methods. This group works together to gain knowledge. Aside from educating themselves and each other, the members of the group contribute to the development of the outside community by providing education and support. Children can visit the site in order to learn about the group's sustainable methods of coffee bean production. This provides a base of knowledge in the community for sustainable development. The members also explained that they can provide support for adults in the community who need work by getting them started as coffee farmers. If the town was in trouble economically, the group could help provide resources for the creation of jobs. By spreading knowledge, the group is contributing to the sustainable development of their community.

Sustainable Agriculture and Land Use
The Asociacion Comunida Cafe y Ambiente practices sustainable agriculture and land use so that they will be able to continue making profits off the land for years to come. One way in which they act sustainably is by using an improved coffee plant that produces bigger beans and is more resistant to pests and disease. They plant in the shade, where coffee grows best, instead of in open fields. Another way in which the group preserves and works in harmony with the land is that they reuse the coffee seed shells. This picture shows the area behind the building where the shells from the piladora are deposited. The peels fall on the ground where they serve as both chicken food and fertilizer. This technique saves money for the group in addition to being environmentally sustainable. The group is working towards earning an organic certification, but it is expensive and difficult to obtain.

Furthering Community and Economic Development
The Asociacion Comunida Cafe y Ambiente is working to further their economic sustainability as a business. This photo shows a bag of ground coffee, a step that the organization does not yet have the capability to do themselves. In the future, the group is hoping to gain the facilities and equipment necessary for grinding the coffee. Right now they sell the whole coffee beans after removing the peels and the coffee is ground by their buyers. If the group is able to complete one more step of the coffee making process before selling their product, they will be able to absorb more of the profit from the coffee sales into the group.  This is the concept of 'value-added' products.  In addition, the group could benefit from obtaining fair trade certification, which would allow them to sell their coffee at a higher price.  However, it is difficult and expensive to get. In the future, I think the Asociacion Comunida Cafe y Ambiente will continue to develop economically and within their community.

Author: Kendra Williamson