A man showcases a coffee-growing technique.

A trip to see TechnoServe’s Puerto Rican coffee project

Jordan, a West Foundation board member, recently had the opportunity to take a trip with TechnoServe’s Global Advisory Council to visit and learn about their coffee project in Puerto Rico. This was Jordan’s first site visit with one of the Foundation’s partners since joining the board. It was an impactful experience to see firsthand how TechnoServe’s approach to poverty elimination is put into practice.

Why a coffee project in Puerto Rico? via TechnoServe

In the devastating wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico lost an estimated 80 percent of its coffee trees, crippling an important sector of its economy. Working with local and international partners across sectors, TechnoServe is rebuilding this industry, promoting better farming practices, and responding to more recent storms like Hurricane Fiona. Thanks to your support of TechnoServe, we are training thousands of smallholder coffee farmers to significantly increase their yields and help them access better farming supplies, financing, and markets. Through these efforts, Puerto Rico’s coffee farmers will be able to substantially improve their incomes and help lead Puerto Rico forward into a more hopeful future.

The trip

Participants met in San Juan before embarking on the first leg of their trip, which was to the Jayuya municipality. They visited a coffee nursery and spoke with Miguel, a TechnoServe Farmer Trainer, about his experience working with local farmers.

A man stands near a plant propagation bed at a coffee nursery.

Photo credit: Andrea Stepanski

Next it was on to Hacienda San Pedro, one of PR’s most exclusive and decorated brands, to experience coffee processing and see the coffee drying areas.

Coffee processing equipment at Hacienda San Pedro.

Photo credit: Andrea Stepanski

The following day included a visit to Jose Arroyo’s farm, where Christian (another TechnoServe Famer Trainer) and Jose led a visit of the farm and shared their life experience in agriculture and coffee. The next coffee producer on the project was Gustavo Arroyo, the owner of Rancho Contento farm located in Yauco.

A man showcases a coffee-growing technique.

Photo credit: Andrea Stepanski

Jordan found it beneficial to visit several different coffee operations. “It was very interesting to see the setups different people have, and the ways TechnoServe is helping them make the best out of what they have.”

The final day included a tour of Café Oro Roastery, one of the busiest coffee roasteries in the island, with Farmer Trainer Zuleyka. Erica Reyes, president of the PR School of Coffee and Baristas, prepared some local coffees to taste and shared her experience in the sector.

A variety of coffees are set out for a tasting event.

Photo credit: Andrea Stepanski

“It was really nice to see the work that’s being done firsthand. You [as a donor] always want to do your due diligence, and I’m not sure there’s much more diligence you can do than going to see it in person. It was a really fascinating opportunity and I’m really grateful I got to go.”

The people behind the work

Alejandro Marchand is TechnoServe’s Coffee Project Manager. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, he guided the visit with a wealth of experience and knowledge. “He was with us the whole trip and he really knew his stuff,” Jordan said. “You could tell he really had a rapport with all the folks we were meeting with…really working with them in a hands-on manner.”

What was the most memorable part of Jordan’s trip with TechnoServe? “The individuals behind the coffee,” Jordan said. Jose and Gustavo have different coffee farms, but “you could just tell they were both very happy and content…they are very passionate about what they do.” Meeting the people involved in various aspects of the Puerto Rico coffee project was a privilege. “It reminded me of the humanity that is behind what we do. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re here for,” said Jordan.

A coffee farmer takes a moment to sit on a bench.

Photo credit: John Keightley

Jordan was deeply impressed by the mindset and dedication of the TechnoServe staff he met during the trip: “The people with TechnoServe really had servant hearts. They were very passionate about what they’re doing, not just in Puerto Rico, but around the world.”  If you have the opportunity to attend a trip hosted by a nonprofit to see their work in person, Jordan strongly recommends it as a way to deepen your understanding and engagement. ”It really does make you more invested. There’s always room to grow!”

Learn more about TechnoServe’s business solutions to poverty: Our Work: Business Solutions to Poverty for Enterprising People (technoserve.org)