Small Producers of Sol de la Mañana

  • Country
    Bolivia
  • Province
    Caranavi
  • Elevation
    1,500-1,700m above sea level
  • Variety
    Caturra
  • Processing
    Washed
  • Contributing Producers
    Silverio Nina, Gregorio Palli, Julio and Juana Gonzales, Marcelino Katari, Martín Chirino, Vicente Paye

Distinct and lifted, with bright floral fragrance. Crisp green apple acidity, with candied orange, plum and Rooibos tea in the cup.

This 1,500kg lot is made up of single-day lots from 7 producers that are part of the Sol de la Mañana progam.  These small producers are some of the best in Bolivia. They are based in the Caranavi region and have been hand-selected to participate in the program based on their commitment to quality.

The first of its kind in the country, the Sol de la Manaña program is aimed at sharing knowledge and technical assistance with local producers to create better quality coffees in higher quantities and in doing so help them obtain sustained longterm profitability. The program was established by Agricafe – and was the brainchild of its founder, Pedro Rodriguez and his family. The ultimate aim of the program is to try to ensure that coffee production continues to exist in Bolivia (it has faced a rapid decline in recent years) and ensure that it is, and can continue to be, a viable and sustainable crop for producers in the region for many years to come.

The Sol de la Mañana program came about in 2014 after a group of local small producers approached Pedro Rodriguez and asked for help. They were desperate, facing incredibly low and decreasing yields, and barely making ends meet. After months of planning, the Sol de la Mañana program was born. The goal was simple: to help these small producers improve both the quality and even more critically, yield, of their farms. Most of the small farms in the area produced around 2.5 bags per hectare of coffee (this volume was at an all-time low, due to leaf rust, ageing trees, and basic farming practices). Given that most small producers owned 3 -5 hectares of coffee, this meant that they were surviving on the income of as little as 10 bags of coffee per year. To make liveable income from growing coffee, it was identified that these producers would need to yield around 30 bags of coffee per hectare. The Sol de la Mañana program was set up to try to address this issue, and to help improve quality to ensure high prices could be paid for their production.

We realized that we had a certain responsibility in not only managing our own farms, but also helping the producers that had been delivering coffee to us for many years. As a family, we saw the responsibility to work against this trend and save Bolivian coffee culture, because if we did not take it, Bolivian coffee would have slowly disappeared. We see this as a duty we owe to Bolivia.

With this in mind, the Rodriguez family have set up a curriculum is designed to tackle this problem head-on, focusing on giving coffee producers the skills and training they need to achieve sustainable profitability in the long term by increasing both the quantity and quality of their output. They have developed a curriculum focusing on one aspect of farming at a time, and covering things such as how to build a nursery, how and when to use fertiliser, how to prune, has how to selectively pick coffee. They host workshops with leading agronomists throughout the year.

The results of this program have been profound, with demonstrated improvements in quality and quantities for all participating producers. The results have been amazing – the quality has been greatly improved, and yield has drastically improved to 30 bags/hectare.

In addition, the producers have become more confident and proactive and engaged as a community and are sharing their learnings and experiences with each other and their wider communities. Currently, there are 200 producers enrolled in the program, representing more than 200 hectares of pristine coffee farms. In 2020, their production was up 200%, and many neighbouring farms and communities have begun emulating their successful farming techniques.  The hope now is that there will be a network effect as knowledge is shared between neighbours and their extended communities, and the region’s entire production increases in quantity and improves in quality.

HOW THIS COFFEE WAS PROCESSED

This 1,500kg micro-lot was handpicked and processed on the same day at the Rodriguez family’s Buena Vista Mill. Here, it was pulped and then fermented without water. The coffee was then washed with fresh, clean water and placed inside one of Buena Vista’s ‘stationary box’ dryers for a total of 48 hours. These boxes are series of steel containers which use a gentle flow of warm air from below the coffee bed to dry the parchment slowly and evenly. Coffee was stirred manually every two hours to further ensure it dried at a uniform rate.

Once the coffee was dry, it was transported to La Paz where it was rested before being milled at Agricafe’s dry mill, La Luna. At this state-of-the-art mill, the coffee was first hulled and sorted using machinery, and then by a team of workers who meticulously sorted the coffee again (this time by hand) under UV and natural light. The mill is one of the cleanest and most impressive we have seen – you can read more about it here.