Diversifying Crops in Bolivia

Shelley Johnstone writes about Kiki Tegelberg’s research experience in the lowlands of Bolivia


December 10. 2009
Catherine “Kiki” Tegelberg, an International Studies graduate student at SFU, has recently returned from three months in Santa Cruz Bolivia, where she worked with a local organization to conduct research for her Masters major project.  Her work was focused on farmers in and around the ANMIA region, which is a tropical valley, with many of the communities located on the sides of the surrounding mountains.  Kiki worked with CEPAC, a Bolivian NGO that works in rural development. CEPAC is also part of AIPE, which is a network of Bolivian NGOs that is partnered with the Centre for Sustainable Community Development at SFU in a training project.


Coffee plants in the ANMIA almost ripe for the picking

“I was involved with their coffee project, which was called “cafe amigable con la naturaleza” (nature-friendly coffee). The goal was to work with small-scale farmers in the communities of the ANMIA to diversify their crops, implementing coffee, so that they would not be so vulnerable to the citrus problems. This gives them a more economically and environmentally sustainable crop.”  The coffee project worked with small-scale producers in seven municipalities, as well as municipal governments, producer associations, and local coffee processing/export businesses to help the producers integrate into the process.

Diversifying crops by adding coffee can be beneficial for farmers in this region, because coffee has a lot of opportunity during its production to add value. This means modifying the product so that it sells for a higher price. When a producer grows coffee and sells it when it still has its cherry around the bean, then the producer gets a lower price. But if the farmers dry it out and remove the cherry, then the coffee beans are worth more. Similarly, companies that roast and brand their coffee are earning large mark-ups for that work.
Kiki’s research focused on how to rectify the difficulties that farmers face when trying to participate in the steps that add higher value to their crops. Thus, allowing the rural farmers, who are doing a large part of the production, to earn a more sustainable livelihood.


A manual de-pulping machine that farmers can use to add value to their coffee production

“I really loved working with CEPAC, especially the coffee team. They are awesome people who have so much wisdom. They freely gave me their time and insight on Bolivian culture, on farming, and on the correct method to remove ticks after hanging out in cow fields – which turned out to be unfortunately necessary on more than one occasion!”

When asked about her future plans, Kiki answered, “I would like to continue on in rural economic development, either in a practical capacity overseas or in further research. I feel like I am just getting started. On an unrelated note, I considered weaning myself off coffee, but feel that would be detrimental to my long-term research. I have so many more roasts yet to try if we are going to finish this decade.”



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