The New Foundation for Haitian Coffee’s Future
This was the 23nd trip into Haiti by Volunteer Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak, 16th as a Farmer to Farmer volunteer with Partners of the Americas (POA) and the third with USAID/VEGA Farmer to Farmer grant for coffee volunteers.
This trip was designed to be a follow up of previous coffee work done by Haiti Coffee, POA, DG Educational Services and Makouti Agro Entreprise since 2010 in an effort to increase the sustainable production of Haitian coffee and improve the income of rural Haitian farmers.
Eight American volunteers, Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak of Haiti Coffee and DGES; Guillermo Navarez, Q grader from Minnesota; Beth Dominick, Q grader from Scared Grounds in California; David Pierre Loouis, Marketing and sales, entrepreneur from Washington; Christa Michaud, Women’s issues, from Mississippi; Shawn Steiman of Daylight Mind Coffee and Coffea Consulting in Hawaii; Two volunteers from Partners of the Americas, Arthur Bassett and Tommy Basset of Café Justo in Arizona, were joined by Haitian agronomists Benito Jasmin and Jean Jacques Lucas of Makouti; and 206 Haitian coffee producers including 100 women representing 13 cooperatives in Northern Haiti.
The trip consisted of 5 days in Port au Prince, Haiti where volunteers attended the First National Coffee Competition in Haiti put on by the PNPCH ( National Platforme of Haitian coffee producers). Haiti Coffee and Singing Rooster worked together to provide Q graders and translators for the event.
The second phase of the trip consisted of a 2 day conference on coffee at the Makouti Center in Lorry, near Cap Haitian. This was followed by several days of workshops focusing on plant health, coffee harvesting and processing, coffee cupping and business management. The courses were well attended and culminated in 20 people being picked to begin training as coffee cuppers for next year’s competition and possible future certification.
This visit was the third of three designed to increase the transfer of knowledge of current coffee industry standards and to set a foundation for Haitian producers who desire to rebuild their historical coffee industry and increase coffee exports in an effort to rebuild their economy.
The purpose of this trip was to implement changes, review the progress on new practices already implemented since our two previous trips in June and September 2014, and to review areas still needing expert evaluations.
Thanks to good fortune and action on the part of Singing Rooster ( Kok Ki Chante) volunteers from our June 2014 trip, we were able to participate in the PNPCH (Plateforme Nationale des Producteurs du Café Haitian) first national cupping competition by providing two certified Q graders and a translator.
· Review of previous trip
The team met in Port au Prince with Benito and Jacquelin to discuss the impact from previous volunteer visits
1. Several cooperatives (COPROCAD, CACEMUD, COEB, KASTM, KOPEJ, ADT and Makouti) have been meeting on a monthly basis to discuss coffee related issues and solutions based on the new knowledge they have acquired. They are making organizational improvements and seeing a difference in things getting done.
2. Several cooperatives are now seriously looking at natural processing protocols and see the benefits for them over washed coffee. They are encouraged as a good quality natural process is doable while washed coffee poses huge challenges that are near insurmountable for the more remote cooperatives. Globally there is a growing interest in natural processed coffee as well and future market opportunity is very likely to open up for Haiti’s naturals.
3. INCAH (Government office that controls coffee) PNPCH ( National Platforme of Haitian coffee producers) and many others in coffee now recognize the need to improve the quality of Haitian coffee and to increase production. They see cupping skills as a means of increasing quality and coffee nurseries as a means of increasing production.
4. It had been our hope that we would be able to bring into Haiti red bracelets to serve as examples of ripe coffee cherry color. Unfortunately they arrived too late so we are looking for another route to deliver them to Haiti. The picking of under ripe and over ripe cherries accounts for the majority of the coffee defects during green grading of coffee beans.
· PNPCH Festival: The First Annual National Competition for Quality Haitian Coffee
The festival was highly motivating and a great stepping stone to future movement in the direction of producing high quality Haitian coffee. As it was the first such competition and came at a time of potential government instability and numerous threats of rioting, the poor attendance and disorganization can be forgiven. No conference lectures were given and many people were not informed about the competition and thus did not enter coffee or cuppers. Many people from the USA did not make it due to the record number of cancelled flights do to the extreme weather conditions throughout the USA. Needless to say there was a great deal of networking that went on.
All the delegates of the PNPCH attended as they had a general meeting and election for a new director. Makouti was also very well represented as they arrived with 8 members and producers from the north. Despite some shyness, they watched the competition, visited trade show booths to inquire about equipment that they are interested in and also met with a bank representative to discuss loans. Later they commented that it was amazing to learn that so much is available to them directly in their own country. They don’t have to wait for an NGO to offer them a project in order to move forward. It is important to note that they have a lot to learn about preparing documentation for a loan and need to better understand credit systems before they embark down this road and encounter the pitfalls. It was a great experience and exercise for them.
The winners of the competitions were as follows:
1. Best coffee of Haiti from a cooperative came from APCAB near Thiotte
2. Best coffee of Haiti from a single producer was from Sylverain Ocnel of APCAB
3. Best coffee cupper was Merisier Panel and employee of INCAH who was one of 7 Haitian cuppers including Madame Journal Ogisna from Beaumont who came to SCAA in Seattle last year. She is very interested in assisting with the development of the IWCA.
4. Two naturals were cupped unofficially in a demonstration, with the intent of opening the door to submissions of Café Pile in next year’s competition. The 11 other coffees that were in the official competition were all washed. A youth division was also anticipated but received no entries.
Interesting note that all of the best coffees at the competition were prepurchased by Singing Rooster, which is run by Chris Nicaise who was one of our volunteers last June 2014. These coffees are now slated for sale in the USA. Chris and his wife Molly have also started the Haitian organization Kok Ki Chante who are now F2F hosts ( recruited under the VEGA grant) and will be receiving volunteers in the future with Partners of the Americas
This experience was so motivating that upon arrival in northern Haiti, cupping demonstrations were given a high priority and included a screening triangulation test to pick out 20 people to attend regular training to enter next year’s competition and a possible trip to Nicaragua for more cupping training.
Beth Dominick, and Guillermo Navarez, our Q grader volunteers, participated among the international judges which also included Modesto Alcantara from the Dominican Republic and Molly Nicaise of Singing Rooster. David Pierre Louis helped as the translator for the Haitians to a small degree. It was unfortunately not anticipated that most of the cupping would be in Spanish and David did not speak Spanish.
The other disappointment is that the director of the PNPCH Jean Guillaume Celestin hasn’t been able to give us the time to fill out the host registration and ODI forms. Most of the negotiations were done through Singing Rooster, so it would be better to think of them as the host. Maybe down the road, we can work on increasing PNPCH capacity to become a host for coffee volunteers.
Makouti is currently inviting local youth interested in learning about nurseries, to bring empty plastic water bags. They fill them with dirt at the nursery and are paid $1.00 US for each one. These are then used for the seedlings and have the added benefits of being cheaper than the purchased poly bags, generate local incomes and clean up the environment.
1. Cupping-Beth Dominick-After word got out about the competition in PaP, the interest in cupping has increased. Over the course of the week the word spread, leading to a triangulation and cupping workshop. There are now plans to have a once a month cupping workshop at Makouti. Cupping is a key component to setting up a Quality Management System for coffee in Haiti and improving the quality of the coffee. Beth worked with a total of 75 people, including 26 women.
2. IWCA- Christa Michaud-International Women’s Coffee Alliance. Christa and I have been working together to bring Haitian women in coffee together to start a chapter of the IWCA in Haiti. The purpose of the trip was to gather more information on issues affecting women in coffee, to hear what their desires are, and gather data for grant proposals and setting up the legal documentation for the chapter. Each woman that attended was asked to speak with 10 more women in their villages. The villages visited were Beaumont, Lorry, Plaisance, Dondon, women delegates of the PNPCH, for a total of 100 women and 36 men.
There are now 19 chapters of the IWCA around the world. We visited with the organization in Seattle at the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Conference
3. Coffee Production- Shawn Steiman-Shawn is a Phd coffee specialist and one of the few people in the USA who understands coffee diseases and the needs of the coffee tree. He discussed coffee varietals, environmental requirements, fertilizing, pruning, tips. After visiting the trees in the field his key take home message is that the producers need to fertilize and prune their trees. Shawn worked with a total of 55 people including 33 women.
4. Coffee Processing- Arthur Bassett- These lectures covered the harvesting, drying, moisture meters, storage, washed coffee and natural processing.
5. Sales Pitches-Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak- the group split up into small teams and came up with a short presentation to convince a buyer to buy their coffee. This was a new experience for most participants as in the past, producers just took their coffee cherries to the cooperatives or dried them and took them to market. Cooperatives took the beans to Port au Prince to the FACN/Haitian Blue project. They had very little involvement beyond that and are largely unaware of what happens to coffee beans once they leave the area.
6. Identifying current coffee problems- Benito Jasmin-
KOPEJ- Nursery and seedlings; Need more training.
REPANORD- Need more seedlings, need more training
COPACVOD-Modern training practices
KAPB- More training
APKP- More training
APKB- More training
APCAP- More training
From Arthur Bassett's trip report
This diagram shows what the Haitians think are their current coffee needs. While I agree that these are all reasonable needs and it is not easy to prioritize. The top priority for training should however be fertilizing and pruning. These are vital to dealing with the coffee rust problem and for mitigating climate change. Also more evidence is pointing towards the use of Effective Microbials (EM1) which I introduced to Makouti last year. They have been using it as a foliar spray in the nursery. Now they need to start using it in the field on the mature trees.
7. Green Grading-Everyone-Short exercise in coffee grading to reinforce coffee evaluation skills
8. Contracts-Tommy Bassett- This was a very nice basic introductory lecture on contracts, something the producers and cooperatives have been asking about.
1. Tippi Tap-Arthur Bassett- a simple hand washing station for use in the fields and at the nurseries. 54 people including 19 women attended.
2. Nursery- Shawn Steiman & Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak- Hands on demonstrations at the Makouti nursery, Dondon and ADP nursery
3. Pruning- Shawn Steiman & Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak- Hands on demonstration at the
Makouti nursery. Shawn recommends a 3-4 year pruning rotation. Either pruning part of each tree yearly or only a part of the plantation each year. The first year a branch is cut, it will not produce. It takes until the following season to begin bearing fruit again, but the amount of fruit will be much greater than on unpruned trees.
4. Coffee Triangulations- Screening- 44 people attended, 20 men and 24 women
This was a screening to find people who have naturally more sensitive taste buds and a greater potential for cupping accurately. The test consisted of 5 groups of 3 cups of coffee. 2 are the same and one is different. The taster must accurately pick out the different one. Those who scored 3 out of 5 or better were promoted to the cupping workshop series with the hopes that all twenty of these people will make it to the Second National Haitian Cupping Competition next year. We also hope that some of them will go on to become certified Q graders.
These cupping opportunities give Haiti’s coffee industry an opportunity to open up exciting potential careers for Haiti’s youth keeping them in agriculture and adding value to the coffee industry. They also put the power of negotiation in the hands of the Haitian people rather than the Wall St. traders.
5. Intro to Cupping Workshop-Makouti Training Center- Beth Dominick- This workshop was conducted on the last day to give the new coffee cuppers’ group a feel for what they will be learning. There were 20 people including 7 women
6. IWCA- Plaisance- Christa Michaud- A day trip to Plaisance allowed for meeting with several women in the village involved in coffee. They are very interested in a women’s chapter of the IWCA. They are eager to have access to more knowledge, have representation without men filtering the information and potential access to markets for women’s harvest coffee
7. Coffee Diseases- Plaisance- Shawn Steiman and Arthur Bassett-Field visits to see more coffee trees and evaluate the disease problems. Translating was a problem. The key piece of advice is fertilizing and pruning the trees
8. IWCA- Dondon- Arthur Bassett and Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak- Discussed the issues facing women in Haiti and in coffee. They do a great deal of the harvesting and all of the sorting of coffee. All the coffee is mixed together so they cannot sell their own separately for the time being. They want representation.
9. Coffee Diseases- Dondon-Shawn Steiman- Rust most definitely exists in Haiti as do the Coffee Borer Beetles ( Eskolyte). There are likely some other diseases, nematodes, bacteria, etc but not in significant amounts, The most prominent thing that Shawn noted was the lack of nutrition to the trees. The PH of the soil is very likely off and most likely too acidic which is common on tropical islands. This makes it harder for the plants to retrieve the nutriens from the soil, which in turn weakens the trees. Since few farmers fertilize their trees, the soil is also likely to be depleted. Fertilizing with either chemical fertilizers ( more rapidly available) or compost will greatly help. Ash can be added to the soil medium to help with the PH balance, especially for the nursery seedlings. Water stress and PH balance issues were seen in many of the nurseries. Pruning on a 4 year cycle will also help strengthen the trees and increase their resistance to diseases.
It is good news that malnutrition is the key problem affecting these trees as this can be easily rectified while fungal or other coffee diseases are in serious need of research worldwide.
10. Makouti Business Review- Tommy Bassett met with Hermon Duverson to review the computer system used to track Makouti’s finances and producer’s records. See separate report.
The most significant note was that Makouti is having a very difficult time keeping the antivirus and software programs updated. Automatic updates are not happening due to the internet accessibility. A USB extension cord for the desktop computer would help.
11. GPS- Arthur Bassett and Benito recorded altitudes for many of the coffee regions in which Makouti works with the plan of assigning producers to zones based on altitude. Coffee will be sorted and kept in separate lots on a weekly basis based on altitude. This will help with tracking cupping scores, introduce the concept of keeping coffee in separate lots and evaluating the impact of altitude on flavor quality.
12. La Citadel- Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak- I took the team to see the Haitian fort and castle ruins built by King Henry Christophe, the first president of Haiti. It was great to take a day off and be tourist. It was also an opportunity for me to see the changes in the tourist industry of Haiti as it has been 7 years since my last visit to the Citadel.
Many pleasant changes have been made with nice little tourist shops set up and the horses you can ride to the top are in much better health. They also offer some dune buggy rides up for a fee and by reservation.
The concept of Agrotourism is beginning to take hold. We now have a venue for advertisizing and taking reservations through http://www.getgonetraveler.com/. The pieces are present for a tour. The next step is setting up a budget for a tour and to set the price.
All these samples are from natural processed coffee that Eric visited. These should be considered baseline samples. Next year we hope to see better results.
Cupping results for washed coffees for cooperatives with some training
Follow up meeting in Seattle at the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Conference
Gauging impact of a project is not always easy, especially when evaluating agriculture over a short duration (1 year) and on a limited budget. Returning to the SCAA conference this year proved to be an excellent gauge as to the interest in Haitian coffee.
A. Last year there were no booths offering Haitian coffee or information on Haitian coffee. This year, Café Kreyol, another US based Haitian coffee importer was present. His booth was well attended. He is now selling Haitian coffee to Whole Foods. He is also importing other coffees from around the world because Haitian coffee alone cannot maintain a profitable business in the US. His biggest challenge in Haiti is educating the Haitian cooperatives on the finer points of coffee processing.
B. Last year the PNPCH, funded by Agronomist and Veterinarians Without Borders, sent 3 Haitians to the conference and Singing Rooster sent two.
This year only 4 Haitians were at the conference and travelled on their own. They are all involved independently in coffee. 2 are working with Haiti Coffee.
C. Last year I went to the SCAA to learn and connect with potential volunteers and potential mentors. I didn’t know anyone there before I went. I recruited 3 new volunteers
This year I found I knew lots of people in the industry and met several new people who sought me out because of their interest in Haiti. I have recruited 4 potential new volunteers and 7 potential repeat volunteers for specific SOW needs. I also made some new connections for resources needed in Haiti and a shipping broker for exporting Haitian coffee to Europe.
D. Nine of the volunteers who participated in this grant and 7 of the members of the Haitian Coffee Network were in attendance at SCAA. Most of us gathered at Lucid Lounge in Seattle for an evening of fun and discussions about Haiti. Also in attendance was a film maker who is working with David Pierre Louis on a documentary about David’s journey to find his mother in Haiti after the earthquake ( House collapsed but she survived) and the work he is doing to help his country rebuild. Becoming involved in Haitian coffee has become a big part of his plan to help Haitians sustainably thrive once again.
· Need for standardization in many things; accounting practices for cooperatives; weights and measure;
· General acceptance to the ideas but need more exposure and practice
· Strong interest in preharvest financing but no real understanding of how to get access to it
· Lack of understanding of the bigger global picture
· International awareness of Haitian coffee is increasing
· In order to increase production as fast as possible, the producers need to fertilize trees, Use the Effective Microbials and start pruning on a regular basis. Planting new trees alone will not provide a sustainable solution.
· Processing, drying and storing practices need to be standardized and improved as they are the weakest link to improving quality
· Cupping is becoming a common interest and will hopefully become mainstream, but the crucial link will be using cupping results as feedback for improving practices that improve quality of the coffee.
· This year the best market for Haitian coffee is the local market in Haiti that is paying $3.00/ lb of coffee cherries. This is higher than the export market and less costly. This is also an unusual phenomenon and one that was not foreseen by everyone. By learning to produce a high quality natural processed coffee that could be exported, producers could reach both local and export markets with the same coffees. There is a growing interest in natural processed coffees worldwide. This however leaves the cooperative with their washing stations a bit useless, unless they too adapt. Their drying patios are an excellent means to standardize the protocol for naturals.
· Most of the cooperatives we worked with are eager for more information, but two of the largest ones, Marmelade and COPACVOD are convinced that they do a good enough job. Sometimes they promise to follow protocols if they are prepaid. They sadly are missing the boat and will eventually be left behind when the quality of the smaller cooperatives improves. With the focus continuing to be on collaboration, we hope that they will come on board sooner rather than later.
The progressive evolution of this project has reached a point where a solid foundation of general knowledge has been created for the coffee producers and cooperatives working with Makouti Agro Entreprise. They can now understand the bigger picture and have basic awareness of the pieces of the value chain. The next phase will be to build on the foundation by focusing on the finer points and practices of each phase of the coffee beans’ life and each step of the value chain. Experience is needed as well so that over time the new knowledge can be adapted and improved upon. There should never be an endpoint but rather ongoing evaluation and refinements of practices to keep the quality and quantities improving and the results producing a viable cost effective product that is sustainable. Producers and cooperatives will need to learn to evaluate the market and the best product for the market each year. They now have the basic knowledge to start doing so.
Cupping is now an activity of interest rather than an intimidating mystery wrought with awkward behaviors. The producers and agronomists are now freely exchanging ideas and descriptions about the subtleties of coffee rather than shying away and dismissing the coffee as disgusting. They are eager to listen to the critique on the coffee they produce.
Quality is still in need of work, but this will take more training and impact throughout several harvest seasons. Thankfully more parties are now coming to Haiti to help with coffee education and are willing to collaborate. Hopefully grants will continue to support the transfer of information and loan systems at reasonable rates will be offered to upgrade equipment and resources.
The Haitian Coffee Network, coordinated by Michele Edwards of Partners Worldwide is now 38 members and growing. In time, this collaboration could, and has already, increase efficiency, reduce costs and increase outreach helping things progress more rapidly. The sharing of ideas is generating a great deal of enthusiasm and hope that the industry will continue to advance despite the many challenges still ahead.
NEXT STEPS and FUTURE VOLUNTEER NEEDS
· Need a USB extension cable 6-10 ft long. More than 10 ft could cause transmission problems.
· Design and explain contract templates for producers and cooperatives that are fair to both buyers and sellers
· Financing-How to ask for credit; How to prepare financial statements; Presentation from lenders (Yunnis Social Bank, Sogebank, KECAM, Root Capital)
· Selective Harvesting for Quality and Quantity- Distribute red bracelets, Demonstrate increased income from larger volumes, Demonstrate increased income from increased quality, What are buyers looking for?
· Coffee Tree Health needs to be improved by, Fertilizing, Pruning, and use of Effective Microbials.
· Dry Mill Processing (generally done Jan-March in Northern Haiti)- Critique what is being done, Evaluate sorting practices, Teach SCAA guidelines for identifying defects and causes of defects
· Cupping- more firsthand experience, workshops and certification training
· Marketing and sales to consumers in USA and abroad
· Make Less than Container Load (LCL) consolidating shipping available directly from Haiti
· Cost of Production analysis for small producers and cooperatives
· Coordinate shipping of materials needed and purchased by Makouti. Find a reliable shipper.
On any given day the adventure of rebuilding the Haitian coffee industry can be great or seriously stressful. Haiti is full of challenges, yet also full of hope. When I see the results of decades of charity and the lack of access to basic knowledge, I am chilled at how few choices exist in the average Haitian family’s life. How isolating and paralyzing that can be when viewed from a global perspective. It takes great courage for Haitians to venture off their island and overcome their fears of ignorance, but someone must travel where hope lives, where choices live, unless we can open the door of knowledge to them, in Haiti.
I am excited by the current move to invest in income generating agriculture in Haiti. As I sit and talk with farmers, I am hopeful. Working with Makouti has given them choices in their lives. Choices that allow them to feed their families and put their children in school. Makouti and Farmer to Farmer are also walking hand in hand with these Haitian farmers; working side by side to help Haitians find their confidence and regain their farming heritage that once made their country rich and renown.
But is it enough when we all live in a world governed by stock markets and large corporations that decide fates based only on their profits. Coffee is a world traded commodity whose pricing is announced daily and based on supply and demand for a handful of companies and large traders. Speculators, tell stories to juggle the market through an illusion of predictions that are often thrown out the window by Mother Nature. Farmers are always forced to predict the future. Deciding when and what to plant based on instincts learned and passed down through the generations. Mother Nature can be fickle and even brutal but farmers have learned to understand her. Stock quotes and speculators are much harder to intuit for people with little schooling and no internet. These purchase prices are even less meaningful when they have no correlation to the costs of production faced by farmers who grow the products, especially the small farmers. It is easy to bias a supply and demand system when the suppliers are uneducated and cannot negotiate with facts in hand. The end result is that we are currently in a global coffee farmer crisis.
At SCAA, I was saddened to hear so many farmers from countries around the world express their fears; talking of starving families that once thrived on coffee production; young people abandoning the farms because they do not want to be stuck in lives of poverty; dying coffee trees because the farmers can no longer afford to care for the trees; trees dying of diseases because solutions weren’t important enough for adequate research dollars to be devoted to the largest consumable commodity in the world. WHY?
Now the time has come to pay the true cost of all that inexpensive coffee we guzzled with glee. Cost of production studies are being done and must be done in every coffee producing country. We need to give up on the one price fits all. Even the minimum price floor of fairtrade is reinforcing poverty because it gives consumers a false sense of security and buyers use it as leverage. Certification programs, like fairtrade and organic, reinforce poverty as they cost the producers thousands of dollars yet benefit only the roaster and retailer who get the lion’s share of the end profits. Farmers gross pennies per cup and often that isn’t even their profit. It’s a loss that reaches to the heart of the bellies of their families.
There is no time like the present to talk about the exploitation of coffee farmers. History repeats itself unless we create the change we want to see in the world. A walk through Facebook shows people fighting for $15.00 PER HOUR wages and garnering worldwide support. Open dialog worldwide is the best way to educate and help everyone thrive. This is an important issue especially when you see that in Haiti the minimum wage is less than $5.00 PER DAY for the factory worker who is making your tablets and undergarments. We aren't born knowing what caused all this nor how to fix it but the internet is making us all aware of the disparity between the 1%ers, those in the middle and the 2 Billion who live in poverty, many of whom are coffee farmers and laborers.
We need to reach out globally, teach the young and the old. Knowledge overshadows fear and ignorance, keeping manipulation at bay. If we keep demanding higher minimum wages without changing the high end wages, we may be able to pay for coffee drinks at every street corner, but are we thinking about the lives of those that picked the beans. Are we really getting what we want? Or are we seeing the end of coffee? Can we look in the mirror and see the end of poverty and hunger? How can we all afford to Drink and Thrive?