13 May 2002

Coffee processing & NGOs

Got up, showered, did yoga, had breakfast then off to the local coffee cooperative.

The coffee is all locally grown and processed. The harvest starts around November and may go into January. The kids get their “summer” vacation from school during this time so that they can work in the fields.

We saw the processing room where the coffee is roasted, ground and bagged. First, Ricardo had to clean out the roaster. He said they do this every 2-3 batches because ‘basura’ collects and if they don’t clean it out, it can catch fire. It takes about 10 minutes to clean out the equipment and 40-45 minutes to roast and grind the coffee. They will roast and grind to customer specifications. He had Styrofoam coffee cups stacked around with samples of roasted beans so that customers can specify the darkness. He also had small jars of grind samples.

The raw beans are dumped into a hopper and then piped up to the top of the roaster by a flow of air. The roaster is gas powered and when it’s up to temperature, the beans (about 50 pounds) are dropped into the roaster where they are heated in the rotating drum. Ricardo uses a tester scoop thing to check the process. When the beans are the right color, they are dropped into the mesh-bottomed cooling vat where they are stirred by a rotating paddle. Air is drawn down over the beans and through the mesh to help the cooling process. When they are cool, they’re run through the grinder and bagged. They sell the coffee for $1.70/bag…either ground or beans.
Then we walked to the Cordeco office. The office is a sort of an umbrella organization of NGO organizations work through to provide human and social services for the people of the community. The organization started during the war when they had to work in secret. After the peace accords, they opened the office in Berlin. They have a board of 9 volunteers. Some of the groups they work with are:

Procomes – agriculture and community organization – They help people get loans to buy seed and fertilizer. Most of the people will plant crops on about 2 acres. The average family (that has land) will have 3-5 manzanas (about 6-10 acres), generally 1.5 or 2 of those manzanas will be farmable. They plant corn in May and harvest in November. They plant beans in mid-August and harvest in November. They have very little livestock. Almost no one has horses anymore…anthrax killed almost all of them in the past year.

Fundesa – focus on housing issues – help people with lining up the money and materials to build their houses.

The women’s paper coop is also there – they collect paper, plastic and aluminum for recycling. The focus of this group is on environmental issues but they also try to earn money through recycling the products. The paper they collect they make into piƱatas (newspaper and some of the plastic) or reprocess into handmade papers that they use to make cards, boxes, bags, etc. They don’t make much money at this. Local people see it as “made from garbage” and don’t value it. They still do it because they believe it’s the environmentally responsible thing to do but the coop has dwindled to about 6 women because it just doesn’t make much money. They also do a lot of educational workshops in the schools about environmental issues.

We looked at their paper and products and thought some of the handmade papers that had leaves and flowers and the like in them were beautiful. We bought several sheets to sell at the Latino festival later this month. If we can demonstrate a market for it, they may actually have an appreciative outlet for their efforts, make more money and not spend the time making and decorating the cards if people just want the paper. We’ll see how it goes.

I bought a note pad and several bookmarks from them while we were there.

They took us on a tour of some of the Fundesa housing projects in the works in Berlin.
We walked back to Fundavita for lunch then went to San Francisco for the solar panel dedication.
They were very excited about the panel. We had a microphone and speakers for the celebration…not that they needed it, but they’d borrowed it from the mayor’s office, probably because they could. There was prayer, reading of the Word, sermon, singing, we sang and played our 2 songs, and had refreshments. Then most of the people left and we met with just the community council.

There are 82 families in the community and they would all like to have their own solar panels. They can’t have electricity run to the village because most of the people don’t own the land and all the projects require land ownership. They don’t have much money but are willing to provide all the labor they can. Bob is working with Miguel to get the project sponsored through our Session to the national level.

The advantages they see to the solar panel they have: they can have all-night vigils in the church, meetings after dark, the microphone/speakers (which they’d like to have of their own), and it allows students who have to work in the fields during the day to study somewhere after dark. Otherwise, they’d have to buy candles/oil or (more likely) not study at all. And there are no health issues with exposure to the lights as there can be with the soot/fumes from fuel oil, candles or fire as well as reducing the eyestrain. The panel project has served as an example for the people here and in other communities and has brought the community closer together in working on, learning about and sharing it. The panel is guarded every night by 2 people to make sure nothing happens to it.

Some general wants/needs/issues
  • Water is still a critical issue here. The Swiss and El Salvador Red Cross is working on a project to get water collection barrels for each family. A communal water tank project is not possible because of the lack of land ownership (85% do not own their land). They would like a total of 35 barrels for the community…but at this point, they could get maybe 15. The negotiations right now are on how much money the community has to kick in.
  • They are interested in solar ovens and dryers. They are interested in the health (not breathing cooking smoke) and cost (don’t have to buy or scavenge wood, doesn’t deplete the environment) benefits. Some have been made at Fundavita but they don’t have any yet. Need money for materials. The mayor of the municipality has said he would support 25% of the project (a solar oven for each family) if they can get the money for the rest of it.
  • They need a latrine for the church…and others in the community. Currently most homes don’t have one. They are gathering info on who needs them, how many need to be build, etc and are working with organizations to get this done.
  • They’d like to have land for a soccer field to be shared among the 4 casarios in the area as a way to help keep the youth from crime.
  • They’d also like better musical instruments for their worship and celebrations. The guitars are very old and have been repaired by whatever materials they have on hand, the bass is strung with twine, the keys on some of the stringed instruments won’t stay etc.
Back at Fundavita we had supper then spent time with Bob talking about the day. I think we helped put into perspective some things that had been bothering him, gave him some ideas about how to maybe deal with future delegations, etc.

Went to bed at 8:30. It “feels” like rain and there is some thunder and lightning in the distance. The rainy season is overdue and the people are very concerned about whether they will get enough rain to support the crops. Right now there is no soil moisture so they can’t plant. It did rain a little after we went to bed but not much.