Falcon Coffees

Origin

Nicaragua

Population

6,120,000 approx

Altitude Range

350 - 1700 masl

Notable Coffee Growing Regions

Jinotega, Matagalpa, Nueva Segovia

Total Yearly Production

1.76 million (60kg bags) (2015/16 - ICO)

Processing

Natural, Washed, Honey

No. of coffee farms / farmers

44,519 coffee producers

Average Farm Sizes

2.8 hectares

Harvest periods

December - March

Per Capita Consumption

2.0kg per annum

Nicaragua has historically undergone periods of turmoil that have hindered the development of the coffee sector in the country. Many experienced coffee farmers fled during the years of Sandinista rule, during the late 1970s to 1990s. When the political scene changed and many of those farmers returned, and Nicaragua’s production escalated. However, the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch and the prolonged world coffee price crisis created further giant-sized hurdles for a country that can, and now does, produce some extremely desirable coffees.

Coffee contributes considerably to Nicaragua’s GDP, providing 40,000+ coffee farming families with livelihoods, and many thousands more with regular, permanent work. In a country with a 50% unemployment rate, and where 80% of the 6 million population live on $2 a day, coffee provides substantial social impact. The medium and larger, industrial sized coffee plantations that exist often have integrated processing facilities, alongside living quarters for the hundreds and sometimes thousands of farm workers that are hired during the harvest season, between October and February. Conversely, the rural smallholders who cultivate coffee rely on family groups for labour and 95% intercrop coffee with subsistence crops – such as corn, beans, bananas, oranges and mangoes – on less than 3 hectares of land.

Similarly, 95% of coffee production is shade grown: cultivated underneath the leafy canopy provided by native and exotic trees. This type of shade-grown coffee cultivation promotes the country’s rich indigenous biodiversity, a fact particularly pertinent in Nicaragua, where deforestation has been an issue in recent years, leading to soil erosion and water contamination in some areas. Government restrictions on deforestation have meant that producers are unable to remove indigenous forests to plant crops; consequently farmers must plant coffee around native vegetation, which provides shade and improves soil quality. The majority of coffee grown in Nicaragua is organic, though not regularly as part of a certified organic program. Often farmers choose to grow organically through economic necessity, when faced with a choice between fertilizing their crops or using the money to feed their families.

Most of Nicaragua’s coffee is grown at altitudes between 800 and 1400 metres, falling in to the Strictly High Grown (SHG) categorisation used in several Central American countries. Key growing regions include the mountainous areas of Matagalpa and Jinotega, though it is Nueva Segovia that is heralded as Nicaragua’s premier growing region, particularly the Cordillera de Dipilto – a mountainous area which runs along the Honduran border. This region regularly produces Cup of Excellence winning lots, for the farms here are blessed with altitudes of up to 1500 masl and excellent climatic conditions. The close proximity of the mills to the farms in this region also proves to be highly advantageous in terms of maintaining quality. Producers are now starting to focus on alternative processing methods such as honeys and naturals in order to add value, with the standard washed coffee not having the same distinctive characteristics that other origins do, and not commanding the same prices. Many producers are also planting new varietals, such as Pacamara and Geisha and replanting Java – an Ethiopian varietal originally brought to Central America in the 1800’s.

Specialty Nicaragua Offers

COMMON VARIETALS:

Nicaragua: Social Impact

Some of the coffees we secure from Nicaragua are grown in one of the most impoverished communities in Central America. At Falcon we recognise our responsibility to address this, which goes beyond always paying sustainable prices for our coffees. We have established a project with direct investment in the local community and are working with the Fabretto Foundation to fund investment in education and school kitchens in the Nueva Segovia region.

The Fabretto Foundation is a non-profit organisation that aims to address issues of poverty and malnutrition throughout Nicaragua. Raphael Maria Fabretto travelled to Nicaragua in 1948 and set up a network of children’s homes in 1953, having been shocked by the widespread poverty, abuse and neglect of children. Since then, the Fabretto Foundation has worked to address these issues through investment in education at early, primary and secondary school level. Their holistic approach aims to provide a better educational structure throughout Nicaragua, with well trained teachers to inform young children and parents of the importance of nutrition and provide vocational development.

A study found that children entering primary school at the age of 6 from the poorest quartile in Nicaragua had the vocabulary level of a 3 and a half year old from the wealthiest quartile. There is an overall lack of qualified teachers, due to low salary offerings, and consequently schools are forced to hire teachers with little or no training. Fundamental infrastructure gaps within the educational system are underpinned by a general disinterest in education in the poorer communities. Many parents are themselves illiterate, having not been educated, and therefore do not see a need for their children to attend school. In the Nueva Segovia province, where our Nicaraguan coffee grows, malnutrition is endemic, with 27.7% of children suffering from chronic malnutrition, considerably greater than the national average of 17.3%. Malnutrition in children can stunt growth, bone and brain development, and has a disastrous effect on long-term development.

The project aims to address these issues through the construction of school kitchens, hosting parent-teacher workshops to encourage better nutrition and raise awareness of the importance of education, and provide teacher training to improve education standards throughout the area. Funds from Falcon will provide resources to build 10 school kitchens in order to provide children with 50% of their daily calorific needs. Education and nutrition workshops will be provided for 250 parents and teachers across the Mozonte municipality. Primary and pre-school teachers will receive 160 hours of training over the project period, and will be provided with Montessori learning materials, in order to implement the new learning approach. So far a number of parent/teacher workshops have taken place, with 24 teachers participating in the initial training programme and construction of the 10 school kitchens is underway.

Falcon invested $33,400 in this project in 2015, and in 2016 have made a further charitable contribution of $17,500. We look forward to sharing the progress with you as it unfolds. Together we can make a difference.