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The coffee he produces is certified by Fair Trade, 4C and Rainforest. Alonso highlights some of the practices he needs to carry out to obtain his certificates. For instance, he uses pesticides only as a last resort and prefers to treat plagues, such as the well-known broca (coffee berry borer), through biological means. Washing and pulping are performed daily as well as he tries to sell his coffee quickly to maintain the highest quality possible. He uses a humidity meter to check the humidity of the coffee during the fermentation process.
In addition, he conducts several practices that enhance sustainability. Alonso decomposes the coffee pulp, weeds manually, has a nursery for new coffee seedlings, and intercrops with banana, cassava, and maize. His farm also has other tress such as guamo, guayacanes, orange, avocado, lemon, walnut, gallinazo and cedar which provide shade to the coffee plants and whose fruits and leaves served as compost material. However, there are some activities that he acknowledges could be improved. His mill to dry coffee berries runs partially on charcoal and his waste treatment system, built entirely by himself, is rather rudimentary.
Keeping track of his processes is key for Alonso. He explains: "If I don't document, I don't know whether I'm winning or losing". He carries out a register of all the processes involved in farm management, from his workers activities to coffee inputs and sales. Alonso also knows that higher quality pays and that he receives a premium for his certification as well. Still, like many other coffee farmers, he is troubled by the low coffee prices and worried about the future of his coffee business: “The peasant farmer is this country has no support. We are just working, producing to pay. All this land around here, roughly 30 or 40 hectares, belonged to my ancestors.
They were hard-working men who taught us how to work.” He is hoping that his daughter would take over the coffee business one day, but he is afraid that he has nothing to show her, nothing to spark her passion for coffee: “Why would she continue the business, if she saw my struggles to make ends meet over the past 40 years.”
Alonso has not heard about blockchain. He wonders if this technology could be used to showcase sustainable practices and how these lead to good quality coffee. He further welcomed the potential recognition from international costumers: "Anyone could say this coffee comes from the Ramírez family in Antioquia, in the municipality of Titiribí, in the village of Otra mina. Look at the old man, here he is. I find that amazing!" He would like to receive information about the journey his coffee undertakes, including price changes, as well as feedback from the different actors involved. Since Alosno is not familiar with the technology, he would need training and support and considers a collective implementation with other farmers beneficial for such a project.
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