Monday, January 30, 2017

F2F Volunteer Helps Improve Dominican Coffee Production

Wish you could have escaped the cold over the holidays and traveled to a tropical paradise? Well, that’s exactly what Lauren Fedenia did when she traveled to the Dominican Republic earlier this month as part of the USAID funded Farmer-to-Farmer Program. Lauren’s principal objectives were to provide training to help coffee farmers mitigate the impacts of global climate change, to reduce land degradation and water pollution, all while exploring new disease tolerant coffee varieties. Lauren certainly had a full plate for her trip!

Coffee was introduced to the Dominican Republic in 1735. Now there are 30,000 coffee farming families on small farms, exclusively growing different varieties of Coffea Arabica, a species of coffee with superior quality. However, the domestic producers face problems. 90% of the coffee consumed in the DR is imported. Not only that, but diseases like La Roya (coffee rust) and Coffee Berry Borer destroy plants and reduce production. Changes in weather patterns have also been impacting production. Rain comes at a higher intensity for shorter time periods than it did previously. This has exacerbated soil erosion from the steep slopes in the mountains and resulted in the contamination of watersheds, as well as decreased productivity on farms.

But Lauren saw tremendous potential for these small farming families to sell exclusively within their borders and boost their economy. Lauren’s made numerous stops at farms, nurseries, processing centers, and coffee shops in Jarabacoa and Santo Domingo to meet with the individuals in the industry. Identifying opportunities to roast and serve locally is of up-most importance to grown the local coffee industry. Lauren visited Gente de la Isla - the first Dominican roaster that process specialty coffee and sell almost exclusively on the island. They are an excellent example of the business that is focusing on local markets and choosing quality over quantity.

Lauren also investigated coffee diseases and environmental issues related to production.She made a stop at Spirit Mountain Coffee Farm in Jarabacoa. This farm has won the Second Highest Cupping Score in the world for quality and flavor, and the runoff from the farm is clear and unpolluted. Their good soil fertility is due to their use of composted chicken manure, healthy agroforestry practices by a balanced use of shade trees, as well as their use of organic fungicides to combat La Roya.

Looking ahead, Lauren recommends building better avenues to sell locally produced and roasted coffee to both the public and tourists. It makes economic and ecological sense to favor domestic producers since they can match the country’s consumption with their coffee. The Dominican Republic can be helped significantly by funding sustainable infrastructural engineering practices in farming areas and they can encourage environmental resilience by subsidizing local producers who follow sustainable farming practices exemplified by Spirit Mountain Coffee Farm and numerous other growers.

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