The past couple of weeks have been busy. I got the chance to work to do some seminars with rural coffee farmers. First I will list my recommendations for teaching farmers business skills, and then if you are still interested I will shared the details of the work of the last couple of weeks.
1.Start a seminar by having the farmers draw their dreams with colored pencils. The objective of the seminars that I have dealt with has been teaching farmers how to make more money from their coffee harvests. I find it helpful to have farmers express why it is that they want to increase their income. Also, psychologically, I think people have a fear of impotence, and that the frustration of being in a learning environment when you do not have much formal education is being in an environment where you are not able to produce or communicate what you want. By giving people colored pencils and having them draw their dreams, they have a sense of expression, of being able to express their dreams in their goals in a not literate way.
2.Try to incorporate short skits and group work as much as possible. For example, if you are teaching a skill with various steps, have actors act out each step of the process. At the end of each skit, stop, have the farmers get together in small groups with a facilitator, and work through the problem, trying to decide what the actor should do next, or what the actor has to do. This forces as many people as possible to take the time to think through the process. For example, for accounting, you might have a farmer sell coffee to a buyer, then stop and have people discuss in groups where that should go on their accounting sheet, then continue and have him buy some fertilizer, and then stop and have them decide where that goes on their accounting sheet, and continue in this manner.
Ran a seminar in Hato Chami on business of coffee. About six friends helped to run the seminar. We spent most of the time going through the process of analyzing a market.
Then traveled to a town called Soloy where I worked with coffee farmers on coffee and business. Worked with three other business volunteers and a member of the Panamanian Agriculture department. About 25 farmers attended the meeting.
After that I had meetings with different specialty coffee producers where in Panama. It was good to sit with them and hear their advice for small scale farmers. Three things I learned: There is always a market for clean coffee – that is to say undamaged coffee, that this year it might be more profitable for farmers to sell to the internal panama market than the international market, and that people who work in coffee processing plants can tell with good accuracy if coffee is sufficiently dry.
Now my question is, how can we teach farmers this skill of testing the bean? If we had beans to give them that were dry enough, could they use it to get their coffee dryer?
After meeting with the coffee business owners I got the chance to visit my host family that is now working on a commercial farm. Their workers camp was about an hour hike from the small town where the closest public transportation comes.