"We have seen how global warming is affecting the whole world. It is important for the world to know that Costa Rica is contributing to reduce emissions. We all have to contribute and in this cooperative we do it too."
How many members does your organization have?
Our organization has 23 members.
Do you have liaison for the NAMA Café? How many people are involved?
We have two people responsible.
What is your interest in participating in the NAMA Café?
My interest lies in several issues: Firstly, to identify alternatives for coffee production in this zone. Secondly, to encourage a more environmentally-friendly production, without pollution and which does not require many resources that affect the daily life of animals. Moreover, we want to provide the cooperative with efficient resources to foster financial and environmental progress. Finally, it constitutes an opportunity we should take to continue to do the things we do, but in a cheaper, more profitable and more environmentally friendly way.
What do you understand by Climate Change?
To be honest, Climate Change is not good at all and I would summarize it as a set of conditions caused by environmental abuse through human activities. Climate Change provokes extreme weather conditions, affecting humidity, rainfall, winds and temperature. All these factors not only generate an impact on all humans, but also on natural resources. For example, here we suffer from water scarcity, strong winds and drought, whereas about hundred kilometers from here people face heavy rainfalls. We should create a balance in our environment. Summing up, Climate Change is alterations in climate due to human activities which we are now paying the bill for. This will affect the whole word, especially those people who work in the field of food production.
Do you think your actions affect the climate?
My actions, your actions and all actions we take might affect in a positive or negative way. We look forward to achieving a positive contribution by means of the NAMA Café through the introduction of coffee and orange trees in order to provide shade. Moreover, it is necessary to diminish the use of chemical fertilizers, to better education on climate change and to protect the rivers; everybody should make a contribution. One important thing that should be clarified: Many people think that actions against Climate Change only have to be taken by farmers, but we actually need help – environmental protection is not only the farmers´ responsibility, but rather of the entire world.
Which sources of greenhouse gases do you know from the coffee sector?
For example, engines of trucks for transportation, the use of plastics, the burning of firewood and the application of fertilizers.
Do you know the expression of “carbon footprint”?
Yes, it consists of two things. The first is the process that I am currently undergoing with my mill, I can mitigate the impact I have on the environment, for example when processing coffee. How much am I polluting the environment when producing x kilograms of coffee? But it’s also my starting point to say “if I do this, I pollute less. If the gas I produce is x kilograms of CO2 on 40,000 hectares, y can mitigate 45% a year doing this, this and this”. So the carbon footprint tells me how much I pollute, in order to change this. And that is positive.
Do you know someone who is affected by Climate Change?
Yes, of course, the coffee producers and farmers of other crops from the region of Guanacaste are highly affected by Climate Change, as well as in other countries, such as Nicaragua or many African countries.
Is your job vulnerable to Climate Change?
Yes, since I am a coffee producer my family lives on the field and our life will change a lot due to Climate Change.
Do you think it is necessary to take preventive measures at this moment? If yes, describe these measures.
One will not be enough; we should do everything possible and it requires the support from all of us. In my opinion we can combat Climate Change, if all people agree and take on more responsibility. We are obliged to establish a global agenda, if we accomplish it, we can achieve this challenge. If we would invest a ten per cent less in weapon industry and make an investment to combat Climate Change, I am sure that we will find a better world for everyone.
Do you know the Costa Rican government´s strategy for reaching carbon neutrality? What do you think about it?
My knowledge on this strategy is limited. The first time when the government mentioned the goal of becoming carbon neutral until 2021 I thought they were crazy. In reality, it was good to initiate that process due to the fact that it constitutes a relevant topic which has to be addressed, people have to become more aware.
Which adaptation and mitigation actions do you know regarding Climate Change in the Costa Rican coffee sector?
There are many. Considering the value chain of coffee, there are different actions to be taken and improvements to be made during the entire coffee processing. For example, using less fertilizers or synthetic herbicides. Maintaining a balance in the environment by using trees, vegetation coverage and clean technologies in the coffee mills and continuously reviewing equipment. Everything you do generates an impact. Improving the way one drives a vehicle and motivating employees to separate and recycle waste. Big things such as a policy that regulates electricity use and small, workplace-related solutions have a great impact.
How does your institution contribute to climate and environmental protection?
We have a pioneering role in environmental protection. Our coffee production is totally environmentally friendly and has only a minor impact. Chemical fertilizers are applied once a year, for further applications organic fertilizers is used. We have sufficient shade on our plantations; we recollect waste, encourage environmental education and spread information among the people. In fact, speaking to the people creates awareness and helps a lot. Finally, we acquire machinery with efficient technology, which is quite expensive, but we look forward to receiving support from the NAMA Café. We hope that this project has an impact on our plantations and in the mills.
The pride of producing coffee that is consistent with a country-wide effort
The place of origin matters
Since 1961 Cerro Azul, the fifth coffee cooperative founded in Costa Rica, has brought together small producers from the upper Nicoya Peninsula. Its manager, Mr. Jaime Salazar, explains that the Peninsula is the only blue zone of the five existing globally in which tropical foods are produced.
-This is a geographic zone where people live longer and much better, with a stronger connection to nature. There is no other blue zone in the world that produces coffee.
Costa Rica is known worldwide for its commitments and efforts in environmental conservation and the reduction of GHG emissions. Salazar is delighted that the cooperative is also part of this national effort.
-We have seen how global warming is affecting the whole world. It is important for the world to know that Costa Rica is contributing to reduce emissions. We all have to contribute and in this cooperative we do it too, he says.
It is from this conviction that Cerro Azul became part of the group of coffee mills participating in the Coffee NSP project. The project provided them with part of the necessary resources to purchase an oven to carry out the coffee drying process, using coffee husks as fuel and leaving coffee firewood behind. Motivated, they made other important investments with their own resources, such as the construction of a greenhouse to dry the coffee in the sun and under cover.
At the farm level, Cerro Azul's associates have focused their efforts on reducing the use of herbicides and applying diversification principles on their land plots. The results of these changes have materialized to date mainly in terms of energy savings. But for Salazar, the benefit is not only economic, but also environmental and image-related: being part of the NAMA becomes a kind of brand, an additional distinction.
What does the future hold?
The challenges for the future are important. The cooperative needs to grow and be more consistent with its strategy for positioning coffee in the market. Salazar says that the trip to Europe that he was able to make thanks to the project made him see very clearly how in the coffee market the producing countries are often victims of intermediaries, who buy certain coffees at a very low price and then resell them in the consuming countries at the price of specialty coffee.
Their hope is to be able to achieve a better sales price for Cerro Azul coffee, both for exporting and for the domestic market, based on a value proposal based on origin: “green country, blue zone” and processes: “sustainability”-.
Love for their community
Despite its tourism development and being a blue zone, the Nicoya Peninsula remains an impoverished area, from which many people, particularly young people, leave in search of greater opportunities in more urban contexts.
To counter this trend, the cooperative has several ideas and projects. First, they are aiming for diversification. Salazar tells of plans to expand their activities with the sale of fruit beverages and offering tours in the area. In addition, they aspire to acquire the necessary machinery to roast, grind and package their own coffee.
Additionally, the cooperative has taken on the task of convincing the inhabitants of the area that it is not necessary to have a large amount of land to grow coffee and that small producers can bet on the quality and sustainability of their product, rather than on quantity.
In order to maintain production in the area, the cooperative gives away plants and seeds for people to plant in their land plots and even in their backyards, with the promise of later buying their harvest. In this way, the cooperative makes its small contribution to the permanence of the population in the area and to the continuity of coffee production.