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Strengthening Cooperative Relationships through Post-Harvest Debriefs

Strengthening Cooperative Relationships through Post-Harvest Debriefs

How closing feedback loops creates transparency, builds relationships, and improves quality control

The timely and relevant sharing of information is key for small-scale producers in many industries, particularly so for coffee farmers. Often, the lack of access to key information such as market prices and trends leads to economic disadvantage for coffee farmers, and this information imbalance makes it difficult for cooperatives and their leaders to serve their member farmers and survive.

For DLG, the exchange of information and effective communication are fundamental to cultivating a more equitable coffee industry that shares value with producers. We are always looking for ways to improve the communication between our cooperatives, our green buying (roaster) partners, and ourselves at the organization.  This year we sought to achieve this through a series of post-harvest, in-person debriefs with our partner cooperatives.

Each of the five cooperatives we work with has a slightly different harvest season, but typically all have their coffee ready by the end of April. Usually the coffee is exported around that time and arrives in the US as early as June, to be delivered to green coffee buyers and roasters shortly thereafter. All of our buyers share a love of high quality coffee that gives back to the people who produced it, and they regularly share their cupping notes and quality feedback with DLG. This information is only useful if it is shared with the people who will know what to do with it, so to complete the feedback loop we carried out visits to our partner cooperatives post harvest and export.

These meetings have three main goals:

  1. To create greater transparency between cooperatives, buyers, and De la Gente.
  2. To gather information from the cooperatives about their harvest and processing techniques for future planning.
  3. To strengthen relations between the cooperatives and De la Gente. We only exist because they make great coffee and we can connect them to great buyers, so it's essential that we maintain relationships built on trust with the cooperatives, the farmers, and their families.

With the goal of transparency in mind we prepared information packs to share with cooperative leaders. These packs contained data regarding the total amount of coffee delivered, the cost of processing (dry milling) the coffee, the cost of moving the coffee to port, and the total amount of money the cooperatives received at the end of the harvest. We also included detailed quality feedback that we had collated from roasters who had already cupped the coffee from the cooperatives, with flavor notes, defect observations, and cupping scores.

Thus far we have held three of these post harvest quality feedback meetings with: Santa Anita (Quetzaltenango), IJA’TZ (San Lucas Tolimán, Lake Atitlan) and finally La Suiza (San Marcos).

All three of the meetings were attended by the board of directors of each respective cooperative, along with Timoteo Minas (De la Gente’s technical advisor) and members of the DLG team. The intimacy of these meetings allowed for open and frank discussion, led by Timoteo, and gave the DLG team the chance to gather information openly from cooperatives about challenges they faced related to processing, pests, or the strange weather patterns that El Niño brought. Cooperatives were able to fully understand their effective price after the cost of processing and exporting their coffee, and we were able to understand better their capabilities and challenges, which we will take into account when planning for future projects and the upcoming harvest. 

Right now you can directly support our partner cooperatives and farmers though our #PayItForwardToProducers Campaign.

Donate $5 or $10 today, the equivalent of the price of a cup of coffee for you and a friend, and directly contribute to a more equitable and inclusive coffee industry. Each donation will help sponsor leaders from our 5 cooperatives to attend the 2016 National Coffee Congress hosted by De la Gente and Anacafe (the national coffee association of Guatemala). DLG’s professional development and ‪#‎PayItForwardToProducers‬ programs provide smallholder farmers access the knowledge and resources needed to earn a fair wage through producing specialty coffee.

Running low on coffee? You can also easily #PayItForward by Donating when you Buy a Bag of De la Gente Coffee in our online shop!