Possible Bird Friendly Coffee in Ecuador

Posted by Robert Rice on August 28, 2013

SMBC staff recently (Aug. 2013) traveled to Ecuador’s southern coffee region to conduct a training workshop on Bird Friendly coffee certification. Robert Rice flew into the colonial town of Loja and went overland to the Palanda, Zamora-Chinchipe, region with members of Quality Certification Services (QCS) to meet with representatives of the Ecuadoran Ministry of Agriculture, technicians of several coffee cooperatives, and project leaders of the German-based organization GIZ (formerly GTZ). Also present and helping with coordination were members of the local government, Gobierno Autónomo Descentralizado Provincial de Zamora Chinchipe.

Palanda itself lies nestled in the mountains at some 1150 meters above sea level, with the surrounding crumpled countryside rising to more than 1400 meters within just a few kilometers. The area is the northernmost reach of the now-extinct cultural group known as the Bracamoros, a tribe that neither the Incas nor the Spanish were able to conquer. When the Spanish conquistador Pizzaro held the Inca king Atahualpa prisoner, it was the Bracamoros who tried to rescue him with gold treasure mined from the Palanda area—a rugged zone still known for its gold deposits.

The various micro-watersheds, the rich volcanic soil along the Andean spine, and rainfall patterns created by this highly broken terrain create ideal conditions for some spectacular coffee. In fact, the local cooperative in Palanda, the Asociación de Cafetaleros Ecológicos de Palanda y Chinchipe (APECAP), served one of the best tasting coffees Rice has ever had at origin.

Coffee from this region recently won the Concurso Taza Dorada 2012 (Gold Cup) award for all of Ecuador, a prestigious moniker similar to the Cup of Excellence. And from our movements within the coffee landscape, there is true potential for some BF certification of high-quality coffees.

The two-day workshop covered the history of the BF program, as well as the science behind the seal and the market potential it provides to growers. A field trip into the coffee farms of the area allowed the 25 attendees to participate in a field practicum—an exercise that involved using the criteria-based protocol to complete one of SMBC’s shade inspection sheets. Essentially, the participants learned about the process by conducting a trial inspection similar to what the organic inspectors do for BF shade inspections.

We look forward to aiding the hard working producers of the Palanda, Zamora-Chinchipe area in whatever ways we can to get them involved in the BF program and bring this environmentally responsibly grown coffee to the North American, Japanese and European coffee consumers.

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