09 November 2021

It's 6 am and the sun peeks out from behind the curtain of white haze. The steep green hills shimmer with their varied hues: a tender green here, an olive green there, and further off, a yellow tint against the deep blue sky. By now, Laura Guerrero Jiménez, Celine Pollet Carvajal and seven other women are making their way towards the gallery where they transform the coffee brush into organic compost. They will soon have better infrastructure, allowing for better quality and efficiency in their recycling efforts.

Up the foothills, Arnoldo Guerrero Espinoza lights the drying ovens for the coffee processing plant. This operation has just won a certificate for carbon emissions control. A few kilometers away, Jocelyn González Sánchez and Adonis Quirós Carranza finish milking their cows, something they start every day at four in the morning and again at the end of each afternoon. On their farm, all the manure is used in a biodigester that provides energy for their work and household needs.

The sun´s rays paint the roads yellow. Through the auburn, muddy streets, the smell of freshly dripped coffee, eggs, plantains and roasted tamal has been wafting through the air for a while now. The coffee is locally produced, nourished from the heart of the Turrubares hills to the west of San José, the capital of Costa Rica. There among the hills are San Rafael, Potenciana, San Luis and El Caite, villages that emerge from the slopes. In San Rafael, Arnoldo Guerrero Espinoza and other pioneering farmers proudly harvest and process their crops for the Cerro de Turrubares Producers Association (APROCETU).

Over 40 years have passed since the first coffee beans were planted in the area. It seemed back then a far-off dream. Harvesting the first 2,000 crates in this high and uneven terrain was extremely complicated. Today in San Rafael, APROCETU processes more than 50,000 crates in a good year. Their coffee — full-bodied, with a perfectly balanced acidity and with hints of chocolate — is exported to England and the United States. Once a Japanese customer even came by helicopter to buy coffee. It´s not just any coffee. The producers have infused it with environmental protection, allowing them to earn a carbon-free production certification in July 2021 by implementing a pre-drying greenhouse for the coffee beans.

The effort resulted in a 23 per cent reduction in electricity consumption through the drying ovens. But they went further, installing 28 photovoltaic solar panels, with the support of the Biomatec Foundation, through a project from the Small Grants Programme (SGP) of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) - a programme implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and in partnership with the Advisory Commission on Land Degradation (CADETI), the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG). APROCETU seeks to reduce their electricity costs by at least 90 per cent, which is around US$3,130 per year.

Read the full story behind this initiative here.

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