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 has spent the last decade building a visionary business called Agricafe. This young, dynamic and passionate team – which includes Pedro’s son, Pedro Pablo, and daughter, Daniela – focuses on building long-term relationships with producers, based on mutual trust and benefit. Today, Agricafe owns 12 farms and around 130 hectares of coffee under the banner of ‘Fincas Los Rodríguez’ and represents over 200 smallholder producers as part of their Sol de la Mañana program. 

When we first began working with the family in 2010, their focus was on sourcing coffee from smallholder producers in the Caranavi region and processing it at their wet mill, Buena Vista. At the time, most of these producers would deliver whole cherries to the mill (also located in Caranavi) to be processed and dried separately, allowing for full traceability back to the individual farmer or colonia (a group of small farms). Pedro also purchased coffee in parchment from quality-focused producers located further away from the mill. These producers would process their coffee themselves and would then deliver it to the mill to be evaluated and approved by Agricafe’s quality control team.

Since the beginning, the Rodriguez family actively contributed to the development of the producers they worked with by sharing best practices and providing the information and support necessary to improve quality. They established transparent relationships with these growers, directly passing on any additional rewards they secured whenever a particular lot stood out on the cupping table and earned higher than expected prices. This relationship gave coffee producers the motivation to continue their investment in, and commitment to, quality coffee, and strengthened their trust in Pedro and his family.

By 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. They recognised this approach was crucial to guaranteeing a minimum level of supply, thus ensuring the future sustainability of coffee in Bolivia and their business. They acquired land in Caranavi near their Buena Vista mill and established their first farm, Finca La Linda. “This is where the dream started,” Pedro says.

 

The Rodríguez family’s approach to coffee production is extremely methodical, innovative and scientific. As their business has progressed, they have 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 trialled, 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 Rodríguez farms are some of the most organised and beautiful we have come across. Coffee trees are 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. What started as one farm in Caranavi has grown to include 6 others in the region, as well as another 5 in the region of Samaipata, a historically food-producing region where the Rodriguez family are pioneering coffee production.

One of the greatest outcomes of the Fincas Los Rodríguez project has been the impact on local coffee production. The family’s farms have been a powerful tool in demonstrating to local smallholders what can be achieved with the application of modern farming techniques. Following such practices has created an opportunity to educate and engage with neighbouring farmers to show them ways to produce coffee more productively and profitably.

“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 during a 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 profitable farms, the Rodríguez 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 to help them grow 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.

We have worked with Pedro and his family for over ten years and hold them in the highest regard. Their commitment to Bolivian specialty coffee is unwavering. Pedro summed up their sentiment perfectly during a 2017 visit,

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