Meet Pedro Rodriguez

Over the last decade Pedro Rodriguez has worked tirelessly to build the production of, and market for, Bolivian specialty coffee, helping hundreds of local farmers recognise and realise the potential of their land and crops.

Pedro entered the coffee industry 30 years ago, ditching his suit and his accounting job to pursue his passion for agriculture. Fifteen years ago, Pedro recognised the potential for specialty coffee in Bolivia, and over the last decade, he has built a visionary business called Agricafe, which focuses on building long-term relationships with producers, based on mutual trust and benefit.

With a young, dynamic and passionate team, including Pedro’s son Pedro Pablo and daughter Daniela, Agricafe represents over 100 small producers based in the Caranavi province and further afield in the South Yungas region. Many of the Caranavi-based producers deliver their whole cherries to Agricafe’s Buena Vista Mill in Caranavi. This meticulously run mill processes many of its lots separately, allowing for full traceability back to the individual farmer or colony.

Pedro also purchases coffee in parchment from quality-focused producers located further away from the mill. These producers process their coffee themselves and deliver it to the mill to be evaluated and approved by Agricafe’s quality control team.

Pedro and his team take a long-term view, actively contributing to the development of the producers they work with by sharing best practices and giving them the information and support they need to improve quality. They foster a very transparent relationship with their growers, directly passing on any additional rewards they secure if a particular lot shines brighter than expected on the cupping table and garners higher than expected prices. This relationship gives coffee producers the motivation to continue their investment in, and commitment to, quality coffee, and strengthens their loyalty and trust in Pedro and his family.

We have worked with Pedro and his team since 2010 and hold them in the highest regard. Their commitment to Bolivian specialty coffee is unwavering. Pedro summed up their sentiment perfectly when we last visited.

“It is our greatest satisfaction to be part of, and contribute to, the development of the coffee-growing culture in Bolivia.”

 

About Fincas Los Rodriguez

In addition to working with small producers in the region, Pedro and his family have also invested in their own coffee farms.

In 2012, as leaf rust started to obliterate the production in many small farms, Pedro and his family began to invest in their own plantations, fearing that coffee production in Bolivia would disappear completely. This, they recognised was critical to guarantee a minimum level of supply and thus ensure the future sustainability of their business. They acquired land in Caranavi near their Buena Vista mill and created their first farm, Finca La Linda. “This is where the dream started,” Pedro says.

Today Agricafe has 12 farms and around 130 hectares of coffee under the banner of ‘Fincas Los Rodriguez’.  Seven of these are in Caranavi, in the department of La Paz, and the remaining five are in Samaipata in the department of Santa Cruz in Bolivia’s east.

 

The Rodriguez family’s approach to coffee production has been extremely methodical, innovative and scientific. Along the way, they consulted leading specialty coffee agronomists from around the world to help them produce exceptional coffee and build sustainable and healthy farms. A wide range of varieties have been trialed, along with different farming techniques, to optimise quality and output. They have carefully documented their findings at every step of the way and continue to innovate and invest in improvements to produce the very best quality coffee they can.

The Rodriguez farms are some of the most organised and beautiful we have come across. Coffee is well spaced in neat rows and meticulously organised by variety, making picking and lot separation much easier to manage than on more traditional farms in the region. The farms are vibrant, luscious and healthy, and produce exceptional quality and yields.

 

One of the best outcomes of the Fincas Los Rodriguez project has been the impact on local coffee production. The farms have been a powerful tool in demonstrating to local smallholders what can be achieved with the application of modern farming techniques, and this has created an opportunity to educate and engage them and show them how to produce coffee sustainably.

“Our farms have become very powerful tools and living proof that help producers see what is possible and what they need to do. Pedro Pablo explained on our recent visit.  “When they see what is possible, they become open and trusting, and now come to us for help.”

Off the back of the success of their farms and the insight the family has gained into building sustainable and profitable farms,the Rodriguez family has created a producer mentoring program called Sol de la Mañana. The first of its kind in the country, this program is aimed at sharing knowledge and technical assistance with local producers and help them to create better quality coffees in higher quantities. The objective of the program is to make coffee production a viable and sustainable crop for the producers they work with, for many years to come.