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February 18, 2021      5 Minute Read


Guiding Farms in the Right Direction / Guiando a las Fincas en la Dirección Correcta

Alieth Polo

Regional PECA and Sustainability Director

TAGS

Growing coffee is a farming tradition with centuries of history. Most producers nowadays grow coffee thanks to the legacy of knowledge and experience passed on to them through their parents, grandparents, great grandparents and beyond. For today’s producers, coffee cultivation means practicing what they learned from their family, as well as incorporating advice and techniques from their neighbors and peers.

Throughout the year, our team of PECA educators visit coffee growing families across Latin America to understand their needs and offer them education to best manage their farms. During these visits, we often encounter one particularly big challenge: Most small-holder farmers don’t keep track of the activities carried out on their farms and have no tools to properly manage their farms in an efficient way.
As a result, many coffee growers often don’t know how much coffee they will produce during the harvest or the exact cost of producing a kilo of coffee.

 

"my father taught me that if the flowerings were good, we knew they we would have a good production during harvest. however, i didn’t know when i was supposed to harvest or how to care for the trees before and after the harvest. i used to fertilize my coffee only when i could afford it, instead of figuring when was the right time to nurture my plants."
evelio zuñiga, palestina, huila (colombia).

"i had no schedule or calendar whatsoever for the activities i needed to carry out on the farm."
 
duberney cifuentes, planadas, tolima (colombia)

"i usually fertilize based on how the trees looked, combined with favorable weather conditions."
 
orlando lemus, la plata, huila (colombia)

Additionally, they don’t feel empowered enough to make decisions and take actions that prevent or mitigate diseases and other hazards which could affect the quality or volume of their harvest.
For us at Caravela it’s crucial for coffee growers to have all the tools necessary to produce more and better coffee. For more than 20 years, we’ve been working on improving the lives of coffee growers through education, awareness, and higher prices. The surest way to guarantee better coffee for the world is through helping coffee growers know their farms, understand their harvest cycles, and have the tools to make informed, timely decisions for their businesses, just like the CEO of any other company. Coffee may have familiar stages of development, but every farm is unique, because every farm has different microclimates and altitudes. For this reason, our PECA team designed and developed the Coffee Compass.
The Development of the Compass

 

The Compass is a tool that allows coffee growers to organize, plan, register, and follow up their farm activities regardless of where they produce coffee. The Compas is comprised of two parts: the ACTIVITY PLANNER and a CALENDAR TO SCHEDULE ACTIVITIES. The activity planner has two wheels, the first one featuring the months of the year divided by weeks, and the second displaying all the agronomic tasks for disease and plague management and sustainability activities. Additionally, the compass has a calendar where coffee growers can document monthly activities. The tool was developed based on work from the different coffee research centers like Colombia’s CENICAFE, Costa Rica’s CATIE, Guatemala’s CEDICAFE of ANACAFÉ as well as key notes taken from the Colombian Coffee Grower Manual of CENICAFE. One of the foundations of this tool, besides the rigorous scientific research and our team’s know-how, was to consider first and foremost Latin American coffee growers' reality and needs. As such, the Coffee Compass does not require growers to have any formal agronomy training, much less Wi-Fi, batteries, or even electricity. It is a timeless tool that can be used by coffee growers harvest after harvest.

“ever since i received the compass in mid-2020, i’ve been able to understand all the activities that  i carry out on the farm during the year. most importantly, i’ve realized that most activities are a consequence of other activities and that all of them have their reason for being. in november and beginning of december of 2020, we had very good flowerings, so now i know that the harvest will come by mid-june and july.”
 

evelio zuñiga, palestina, huila (colombia)

“for me, this tool is like a clock. It helps me organize and understand my cultivation with accuracy.”
 

jesús orlando lemus, de la plata, huila.

The Coffee Compass is centered around the flowering dates on a farm, which dictate when producers must carry out critical processes and activities over the course of the year, up until harvest. Using only this basic information, coffee growers can identify the dates when they need to undertake the most critical duties on their farms, such as control pests and diseases, create fertilization plans, perform weed controls, as well as plan for harvest and post-harvest phases. We’ve also included other activities that are vital to specialty coffee production under sustainability parameters. With this tool, coffee growers can schedule critical activities such as maintenance of drying stations or wet mills, shade management, and a variety of other essential tasks.

The Coffee Compass was invented by Hector Calderón, a PECA educator in Colombia who came up with the idea of helping coffee growers better organize their farm activities with a practical, easy-to-use tool. The prototype was constructed using only a piece of paper, scissors, a ruler, and some colored pencils. The final design was then presented to some of our coffee growing partners, who provided enthusiastic feedback. We realized that this tool had real potential to improve coffee farming by training producers to manage their farms more efficiently. The development of the Coffee Compass would not have been possible without a generous donation from Taylors of Harrogate, who believed in the product and helped us manufacture 2,800 Compasses for distribution to coffee producers in Latin America.
 

Up to date, we have donated more than 2,000 units of the compass to coffee growing families that work with Caravela in the seven origins where we work.

“for me, the most important feature of this tool is that you’re able to keep precise and accurate registers of your farm, mainly so you don’t forget to carry out any of the activities and always know what you already did and what is still missing.”
 
reinel pérez, planadas, tolima (colombia)

"its very practical because based on the main flowering you can know when to start monitoring and controling plagues and diseases. it helps us make decisions on fertilizers also taking into account the cherry development stage. it indicates us when is the harvest peak for us to anticipate and get ready."
 
luis emilio gomez, dipilto, nueva segovia (nicaragua)

"following the compass, i fertilized in november because my flowerings were on september. now in january and february, i've been monitoring berry borer and in these days, we will do weed cleaning. everything based on the compass."
 
maria anelvis segura, huabal, jaen (peru)

We believe the Coffee Compass will be a game changer for farmers, guiding them to keep a more organized, productive, and profitable farm. Because in the end, it isn’t coffee that’s special; it’s the millions of growers whose hard work and passion yield a product that uplifts millions of people around the world.

We have available for sale a limited number of units for growers all over the world. With the incomes received, we will be able to donate more Compasses to small-scale farmers

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