“The world came crashing down on me in 2012 when coffee rust damaged one third of my crop, and half of it the following year. It took three years to renew my plants and harvest again. Before, I sold unprocessed coffee beans because I had no way to process it. This reduced my earnings,” said Elías, as he recounted his first steps as a coffee producer. “Four years ago, I received technical assistance from PROGRESA and IHCAFE, and I put the things I was learning into practice, managing plants and fertilization. I obtained an additional 227 kg of “gold” coffee per 0.7 hectare. Producing coffee is a book that never ends. There’s always more to learn,” he added. His 11.2 hectare farm is in Zapotillo, Güinope.

Two decades ago, Elías Rodríguez’s grandfather produced coffee, and he dried it – an innovative practice in those days. When he was 16, Elías followed in his footsteps and fell in love with the crop. After a good run selling cabbage, he bought land and one year later he planted his first 700 coffee plants. “When I am able to harvest 1,000 baskets of coffee cherries, I will stop planting,” he thought, but when he surpassed his goal he kept going and grew more. “I like it because I do not work for anyone, and I am a positive example for others. Coffee gives me the time for other activities.” This mindset of a champion led him to win first place in the Specialty Coffee “El Paraíso Origin” Competition in 2021, organised by CAFEPSA with support from the PROGRESA project.

“I spent three years planting specialty coffee. Winning first place in the competition was a great triumph. Now, my community is known for its good coffee,” said Elías Rodríguez.

“I won first place with the Pacamara variety. I obtained a 42% increase in the price and received a humidity meter as a prize. Now, I dry to the optimum point without compromising the coffee’s quality. My yield rose from 779kg to 938kg per hectare,” he added.

With support from the project and IHCAFE, Elías co-financed 50% of a six-sieve solar dryer, with a capacity of 818kg. With this, his earnings increased significantly, since selling the dry bean is better than selling the fresh cherry. In addition, the beans are dried in a uniform manner, avoiding the sudden loss of essential oils, and obtaining better cup grades. His coffee caught the attention of Café Nativo, a specialty coffee roaster and store, which is interested in buying his next crop. His beans have the aroma of jasmine flowers and roses, with caramel toffee and cacao notes. This aromatic coffee is part of a special edition that will be promoted as specialty coffee from the El Paraíso department.

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