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Photo essay: Scenes from WCR’s new variety trials in Guatemala

Aug. 13, 2018

Farmers, in collaboration with WCR, are conducting their own experiments now.

One of our main priorities at World Coffee Research is facilitating the creation of new coffee varieties that are better suited for the 21st century. Just like every type of crop, coffee varieties need to be updated so that they can thrive in changing environments and resist new threats like disease. This leads to some important follow-up questions: How do we get those updated varieties into farmer’s fields? How do we supply farmers with the knowledge they need so they can successfully renovate their farms?

Enter the Global Coffee Monitoring Program (GCMP), which, according to GCMP Director Danielle Knueppel, “aims to give farmers the confidence to know that renovating farms with improved varieties and using effective agricultural practices matter.” She continues, “This network of small, on-farm trials allows farmers to be convinced through scientific testing that they can farm more profitably by using a different variety in combination with different agricultural techniques.”

GCMP in action at Flor Amarilla, WCR's El Salvadorian Research Farm

The trials in farmers’ fields are organized into grids like this one at Flor Amarilla, WCR’s research farm in El Salvador. The grids align with the three different varieties and three different packages of agricultural practices.

Over the next five years, WCR and partner organizations on the ground will plant more than half a million coffee trees through this program—it’s global, it’s exciting, and it’s reaching people all over the world. Knueppel estimates that the program is expected to reach around 25,000 coffee farmers directly, and more if the information gained from these trials is disseminated through farmer training programs.

Rocael Vasquez

Portrait of Rocael Vasquez, farmer.

Rocael Vasquez owns a farm in Jumaytepeque, Santa Rosa. He was the first farmer in Guatemala to sign on with WCR for the Global Coffee Monitoring Program, and he says he’s excited for it. Here, he stands in front of several coffee trees that were planted in September 2017.

Rocael Vasquez 2

From left to right: Lucile Toniutti (WCR Molecular Breader), Carlos Javier R (Agronomist- Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung), Rocael Vasquez (Owner), Dr. Francisco Anzueto (WCR Scientific Coordinator - Central America) stand behind a young Sarchimor plant.

WCR's partners, like Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung, offer invaluable support to the Global Coffee Monitoring Program. The program is only possible because of the help of supply chain partners, whose agronomists work with WCR Country Agronomists to collect data and support farmers.

Lemus

Alvaro Lemus walks through his trial in his farm, Finca De Las Flores, in Olopa, Chiquimula.

Through the Global Coffee Monitoring Program, Lemus is testing to see how well the grasses growing in between his coffee rows will help in controlling soil erosion. His trial also includes a coffee variety called Centroamericano – one of the F1 hybrids created by a partnership between six coffee institutions in Central America—CIRAD-CATIE-ICAFE-IHCAFE-PROCAFE-ANACAFE.



Lemus

Dr. Francisco Anzueto photographs a young coffee tree at WCR's third Guatemalan GCMP site in Santa Cruz Naranjo, Santa Rosa.

Despite the eruption of Volcán de Fuego and heatwaves all over the world, this has actually been a good season for the trials in Guatemala. WCR’s Country Agronomist for Guatemala, Jose Paiz, says that the young trees are in good condition, and more importantly, the farmers understand the importance of the scientific research—they are taking care of the fields well, and consistently.



Guatemala Agronomist

Green cherries in foreground with Ronal Vasquez (Hanns R. Neuman Stiftung Agronomist for Santa Cruz Naranjo, Santa Rosa) in the background.

As WCR and partner agronomists have talked to farmers, they’ve heard them express their excitement that they are conducting this research as part of a global network. These farmers know they are part of a big experiment to help the future of coffee, but more than that, they know they are representing their region in this experiment. Results of their experiments will allow their neighbors to make more profitable choices, and that’s something to be proud of.

All photos credited to Devon Barker (@devonbbarker)

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