With millions of cups of coffee consumed yearly, coffee remains one of the most popular beverages in the world.
Yet, the unsung heroes that bring us our “morning perk” are our farmers and entrepreneurs. Spread out over the world, they work tirelessly, rain or shine, to bring us that delicious morning brew.
For World Coffee Day, we’re focusing on the unique partnership between De La Finca and Cooperativa Jose Alfredo Zeledon (JAZ) from MEDA’s Technolinks+ project in Nicaragua. In the lush setting of San Juan de Rio Coco, Nicaragua, coffee-making runs deep – families have been growing coffee in this fertile region for over 100 years.
Below we explore how De La Finca and JAZ partnered through the Technolinks+ project and the path they traveled together to create prosperity for themselves and their families.
How De La Finca and JAZ got started
De La Finca
Created in 2012, De La Finca’s business model produces, processes, and prepares coffee and honey products. De La Finca started by selling 13 lbs. of roasted coffee beans and ground coffee to small supermarkets and convenience stores. Eventually, they opened their first store in the garage of their house and hired 12 people. De La Finca then became the first specialty coffee shop in Nicaragua. Despite their success, they still had challenges: they didn’t have the equipment to process their coffee, so they had to pay others in Nicaragua to do it.
Sixteen years before De La Finca formed, the José Alfredo Zeledón (JAZ) Cooperative was created on April 12, 1996, in Las Vegas, San Juan del Río Coco, Nicaragua. JAZ produces and markets organic coffee. Thirty-five associates formed JAZ, made up of six women and twenty-nine men. After 25 years of work, it has 399 coffee producer members, 120 women, and 279 men. JAZ has 1,400 hectares of coffee and produces an average of 20,000 lbs. yearly.
Their partnership through Technolinks+
In 2020, De La Finca and JAZ partnered through the Technolinks+ project for one year. The partnership allowed these businesses to improve their production processes and strengthen their business models. De La Finca would teach the cooperative’s producers about more profitable and environmentally sustainable production and roasting practices. Through the partnership, De La Finca would acquire a coffee laboratory, the De La Finca Coffee Lab, and purchase coffee from the cooperative’s producers. This would allow them to expand their supply chain and guarantee high-quality products.
Roadblocks they faced along the way
Like all agricultural farmers and entrepreneurs, JAZ and De La Finca dealt with the effects of climate change. More unpredictable weather negatively affects coffee yields. Yet, through the Technolinks+ project, the project worked to mitigate the impact of climate change. Then there was the economic slump that affected Nicaragua because of the pandemic.
The fruits of the JAZ and De La Finca partnership
Despite some initial hurdles, the partnership was a success. De La Finca shared its knowledge with 300 JAZ members to improve the coffee quality and fermentation processes and practice sustainable environmental practices. JAZ also bought a coffee roaster and strengthened its staff’s knowledge of the roasting process. Through the project, JAZ developed new lines of business, such as producing and marketing plantain, selling coffee roasting and grinding services, brand positioning, and selling finished products through the JAZ SABORES DE MADRIZ brand, and selling coffee in local and national markets.
For De La Finca, working with the JAZ cooperative provided it with a sustainable and high-quality supply of coffee. It also allowed JAZ and De La Finca to improve their coffee production and processing. As a result of higher quality products, De La Finca expanded its portfolio of products and services. It also analyzed coffee samples, roast analysis, barista training, cupping, and roasting.
Jaz and De La Finca hired more women workers. Before the project, De La Finca had only 20% women in its workforce; now, thanks to the project and its gender plan, half its workforce are women. The partnership also enabled JAZ to create opportunities for women-led enterprises. Women running their own businesses can lead to positive ripple effects. Women can make changes in their households’ economy.
Both businesses also were able to become more environmentally sustainable. Their producers recycled coffee pulp to generate new products and income, and they also used more organic fertilizers and vermicompost, which reduced their environmental footprint.
“Through the grant, we were able to obtain the technology that our cooperative required; today, we are a reference in our territory for our brand JAZ SABORES DE MADRIZ. Our challenge is to position our brand at the national and international level.….”– Francis Gonzalez
Overall, JAZ and De La Finca thrived through the partnership: they gained new knowledge, skills, and technology to build more prosperous businesses. The partnership was the right boost that JAZ and De La Finca needed to create decent work and improve their families’ and community’s quality of life.
Looking for something else to read from MEDA? Drop by MEDA’s Storehouse to check out more stories and news about hardworking entrepreneurs and farmers worldwide.