Honduras is one of our most important coffee-growing countries – around one-fifth of our raw coffee comes from Honduran plantations. However, it is also one of the poorest countries in Central America and is currently facing a lot of social, economical and political challenges. Nevertheless, by directly working together with local coffee farmers and partners we see great opportunities to have a positive impact. That is why we started our Passion Project in 2016 with one particular place in Honduras: La Laguna, a small village in the north-west of the country. Get to know the people of La Laguna, their work and all the steps our coffee is taking – covering everything from cultivation over processing to the transport.
The families that depend on the cultivation of coffee beans live in the region around La Laguna, far away from urban areas. Not everyone in the region has access to medical care, and a visit to the nearest health center often involves a long and arduous journey and long waiting times. What's more, long-term labor shortfalls due to illness and transport-related problems has a direct negative impact on harvests and the revenues of coffee plantations. Therefore, one of the main goals is to reestablish basic healthcare provision and ensure funding for medical staff.
We are helping reconstruct clinics and the procurement of medicine. We are also guaranteeing that people can get regular health checks and treatment by medical staff. In this, we make sure that patients need only pay a small contribution, while we cover the lion's share of the costs.
The clinic has also been directly experiencing the enormous effects of the Covid-19 pandemic: Numerous Corona infections were identified among the nearly 600 patients treated since the beginning of the year, some at no cost. The affected patients were immediately transferred to public hospitals. In order to properly adapt to the situation, the clinic has taken several measures: In addition to structural repairs in February intended to improve patients' privacy and protection against infection, the use of a side room specially for Covid-19 patients is currently under evaluation.
Due to the current developments worldwide, there is also a need In La Laguna for more information about COVID-19 and the related protection measures. A sum of USD 10,000 has been dedicated to this purpose. On the one hand, these funds are intended to be used to produce information posters and brochures so that the population in the La Laguna region can be shown how to protect themselves with measures such as thorough handwashing and social distancing. On the other hand, the funds will be used to finance the purchase of necessary protective equipment such as masks, detergents and disinfectants.
The clinic was able to resume operations in summer, thus ensuring continued patient care. In July and August, 319 and 292 patients were treated, respectively. The continuing demand shows the need for stable healthcare in and around La Laguna.
50% of the money generated by the sale of products is paid out directly to the coffee growers of La Laguna. After one such payout, Ramon Morel, one of the largest local coffee producers, was able to buy himself a pickup truck using his share of the revenues. Among other things, Ramon now uses it as an ambulance to transport employees on his farm. In this way, he plays an important role in local healthcare. The next direct payout to farmers is currently being planned and will take place at the earliest possible date.
The construction of the clinic resumed in parallel to the design and planning work. The cost of renovation has now been determined and the design of the interiors completed. It is particularly encouraging to note that the new clinic team, comprising two doctors, a nurse and an administrative assistant, have already taken up their duties. As a result, in March alone, 77 patients could be treated at the clinic, which also has an ample stock of drugs and medical supplies, and a further 22 people were treated there in April.
First decisions regarding the renovation of the clinic were made after an assessment. Due to the current tense situation worldwide, construction work on the clinic is unfortunately not allowed at the moment. A nurse is currently working five days a week in the clinic, while a doctor is on site three days a week. As soon as possible, another doctor is to support the team in order to ensure sufficient treatment capacity. This increase will significantly increase the medical care. Furthermore, an additional person is to be added to the team to take care of the organisation of the medication as well as billing, so that the administrative side is also covered.
In order to process their coffee cherries, farmers used to have to travel long distances, partly on very poorly maintained transport routes, to get to the processing plants in a distant city. This was not only costly, but also extremely time-consuming.
Thanks to the construction of a beneficio - a local wet-milling facility - the coffee farmers no longer need to travel long distances. In addition, an eco-pulper uses 80% less water for the wet-milling process for the coffee beans. Investing in this professional facility thus also promotes environmental awareness.
Cash payments of USD 50,000 were made to the farmers. For the first time ever, these payments were handled through the cooperative itself, equipped with protective masks and in separate groups. These payments came just at the right time, given the Coronavirus crisis and to bridge the gap during the coming weeks before the next harvest.
Delica has allocated a subsidy of USD 45,000 to the wet mill that separates the pulp from the coffee beans. The remaining costs of the machine are being financed by the farmers and the cooperative. In addition, maintenance work was conducted in Beneficio in the months of August and September.
Many of the machines required for coffee cultivation, such as an industrial roaster destoner and a pulper that requires 80% less water, were purchased for the farmers in advance. The next step will involve managing the waste water treatment process in accordance with certification requirements and implementing all Fairtrade standards in the central processing plant. Within the framework of Fairtrade certification, the infrastructure will continue to be improved.
The engineer has been able to complete the on-site design of a waste disposal system that complies with the relevant regulations. A project plan, including an overview of the advantages of the measures, will now be drawn up prior to implementation. This plan will provide a specific list of households and villages that will benefit from the project. A list of the running costs will also be prepared in order to guarantee sustainable implementation. The total cost of implementation will be spread over the next two years.
Until recently, handling waste was not subject to a systematic procedure. We saw an urgent need for action in this area. It was worth it: since November, waste is being collected twice a week and disposed of in a dedicated site. Waste collection is currently organised via several local collection centres.In a next step, it is planned to have an engineer establish a professional plan with the aim to develop a proper waste management process. In this regard, initial discussions with an expert are currently underway.
Cremesso places great importance on procuring UTZ-certified coffee. The certification promotes socially responsible, environmentally conscious and efficient coffee cultivation and processing. The certification process is complex and not all coffee farmers have been able to fully meet the applicable criteria. Moreover, from 2020 onward, farmers and the coffee they produce are to be certified under the Fairtrade seal. This will enable growers to get a better price for their green coffee.
Local agronomists - that is, farmers with an academic degree - support and train the smallholders. Model farms set up specifically for this purpose give the coffee farmers hands-on experience and enable them to immediately put their theoretical knowledge into practice. We also support the farmers in setting up a cooperative; an important part of Fairtrade certification.
Agronomists have developed a plan for the measures to be taken with regard to the preparations for the UTZ and FT certifications by the end of the year. Moreover, this plan also contains reflections and suggestions to ensure compliance with the standards in the fields.
The agronomists were able to resume work in August, thus making it possible for them to give advice to UTZ-certified farmers once again. Among other things, this ensured that they were prepared for the coming audit and the harvest. In addition, Fairtrade certification is planned to be awarded to a further 19 farmers.
Due to the hygienic protection regulations, no on-site educational measures were able to be implemented over the past weeks and months. However, agronomists and coffee producers have kept in contact with one another as best as possible via Messenger and telephone. This provided them with the opportunity to discuss the basics.
The farmers are now pruning the coffee trees to prepare for the next harvest. Soon they will also start applying fertilizer. In addition to the preparations for the next harvest, an agronomist has been assisting the coffee farmers since last October in their endeavor to secure Fairtrade certification. He advises them and the cooperative founded for the purpose of certification on all relevant matters and instructs them in everything they need to know with regard to certification. In addition, work is in full swing to ensure that all the specifications are met: safety mechanisms for machinery and personal protective equipment for workers have been procured. Work is also underway on a new plant for processing fruit pulp into fertilizer.
As soon as the beans have been harvested, preparations start for the next harvest. There are all kinds of things to be taken care of to achieve a good yield. In addition to pruning the trees to keep them in good condition, an annual agronomic plan is required. Together with the on-site agronomists, the farmers knuckle down to learn from them all the things they need to take into consideration. This includes strict adherence to a schedule, activities such as fertilising, regular pruning of the trees and shade trees, and taking measures to prevent pests.