Before they wed more than 32 years ago, Juan Arcangel Diosa and Maria Silvia Flores were day laborers. The young married couple soon got a small piece of land, and became coffee farmers. For the past 15 years, they have belonged to a farmers’ cooperative, Cooperativa de Caficultores de Salgar (Coocafisa)
Sharing everything, Juan and Maria are able to grow and process high quality coffee beans. They tend to the trees, and pick, pulp, wash, dry and toast their beans--and find a regular market with the farmers’ cooperative.
They also worked with Mabel Berrío, a Grameen Foundation field agent who supports the Cooperative. Mabel used a tablet and specially designed app to collect information from Juan and Maria: about how they handle coffee, their needs, and coffee pests.
They used this information to develop a farm plan together. The process enabled Juan and Maria to decide how to invest their loans, which could be used to purchase a coffee pulping machine, buy fertilizer or replace old coffee plants.
The farm plan also helped them to fight off the coffee berry borer, a beetle that is the most important insect pest of coffee worldwide. In Colombia, the borer dogs the production of over half a million growers, 96 percent of whom farm on less than five hectares. Its larvae feed on coffee berries, reducing quality and yield. Mabel taught Juan and Maria how to install and maintain beetle traps, and control the pest.
But not everything goes smoothly. The screen on Mabel’s tablet cracked and she had to send it in for repairs. Juan and Maria used a loan to purchase pigs but have gained little profit from it, and are eager to fatten up and sell the last piglets.
Undeterred, Maria and Juan know that even failures can pave the way for success, and they continue to improve the productivity and sales of their main crop: high quality Colombian coffee.