Thursday, October 29, 2015

Posts from the Field: Dean Wheeler, Colombia

Written by F2F volunteer Dean Wheeler
My assignment was to collect relevant information on coffee and cacao diversification products, and to present this information in sessions organized by SENA. All activities in-country were organized by SENA, the National Learning Service, of Colombia. Everyone in SENA was extremely helpful, and made my stay very enjoyable.

During the two weeks of this assignment, I presented information on present and future products which can be made from coffee and or cacao. There were four presentations to students, administrators, agronomists, and agroindustrial personnel. The number and type of questions asked indicated that the level of interest in this subject was high.
As I have considerable experience in pineapple production, I was also asked to visit two pineapple plantings, and offered advice and information on this subject.

 In Colombia, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts an increase in demand in food production, calling farmers to be more competitive in production processes. Every day, producers encounter the need to include new technology, diversify their products, and strengthen innovation of value-added products. The department of Huila is the largest producer of coffee, tilapia, and fruits (such as passionfruit, blackberry, tamarillo, etc.) and the third largest producer of fine cocoa. The National Learning Service (SENA) is interested in technical assistance to train and empower their producers and entrepreneurs to improve production and distribution of value-added products in order to meet increasing demands.

My assignment was to collect relevant information on coffee and cacao diversification products, and to present this information in sessions organized by SENA. The assignment purpose was to strengthen the agrifood sector in the Department of Huila through a process of knowledge and technology transfer on the development of new value-added products that increase the diversity and innovation of agribusiness products in the region.

SENA has a very important agricultural and agribusiness center located at Campoalegre, in the Department of Huila. This center has approximately 400 students in attendance at any one time. This is an excellent opportunity for these students, the majority being less than twenty years of age. I spent most of my time at this station, and at coffee, cacao and pineapple farms in nearby areas. SENA has 116 such centers throughout Colombia, and many such centers are devoted to disciplines other than agriculture.Colombian coffee enjoys a very positive international reputation for high-quality coffee. It is easy to see why this reputation has been achieved. The growers with whom I have worked are very conscious of growing and processing coffee to a very high standard. Cacao is much the same in terms of quality. Growing, harvesting, fermenting and drying are very well known processes in Colombia. This product is well positioned in national and international markets. The pineapple being grown is generally of high quality. The quantity being grown can be increased on individual farms by using irrigation and by making some changes in agricultural practices. 

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