An intergenerational skills gap is emerging in Latin America's coffee sector due to underinvestment in training and education for the next generation of farmers. Talented young people, unable to gain the skills needed to progress within the sector, are abandoning coffee to find work in the cities. Such migration is contributing to high unemployment, poverty and poor living conditions in urban centres. The ageing rural workforce also represents a serious brewing problem for cooperatives and the coffee industry as a whole. 

Value chain partnership

  • 15 young people developed 3 sustainable business ideas: banana, passion fruit and trout farming. Two young women are now employed in the coffee shop in the town of Jaen and others have been recruited as promoters in the extension team.
  • The new phase has enrolled over 50 students. 12 of them are now in preparation for business ideas and 21 others in technical modules: barista, cupping, physical analysis of green coffee.
  • Construction of a pilot compost platform in Palla Pena and 120 bags produced from fresh coffee pulp, and micro-organism compost from the mountains
  • Extension of the compost platform to a central site in Una de Gato, 25 ha. The site will produce liquid bio-fertiliser as well as compost. It will also be used as an incubator for business ideas where young people can trial their idea and be supported by the staff.
  • Coming up: next year Cenfrocafe will strengthen their demo plots network to experiment with innovative sustainable agriculture practice.
  • Pret a Manger, Twin and CENFROCAFE are piloting this year (2016-17) a new approach to engaging young people through We Farm . This mobile based platform allows farmers to ask questions and interact with others (farmers, students from the programme, and other experts) on best farming practices or other coffee and crop related questions. 

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Developing the education programme

The partnership joined forces with local vocational colleges and a university to develop a new educational programme that combines business and agricultural theory with practical training. The course kicks off with a technical apprenticeship and is followed by a second semester on business planning and entrepreneurial skills. Lessons are taught both in lecture halls and on local farms by Cenfrocafe staff to foster intergenerational learning and exchange. Successful students gain a recognised qualification and the cooperative builds links with the next generation of coffee leaders and entrepreneurs.

Seed funding competition

At the end of the course, students have the opportunity to compete for seed funding from Pret, matched by Cenfrocafe, to develop their business ideas. Five business grants will be awarded for the most promising business plan proposals, with support, mentoring and shadowing provided by Cenfrocafe during the first phase of business development. 

Programme outline:

  • Cooperative Management: introduces the cooperative model, as well as covering computer skills and business and financial management. 

  • Sustainable Practices and Adding Value: ranges from organic farming and pests and diseases to costs analyses and machinery maintenance. 

  • Coffee Quality: takes students through physical analysis, roasting, grinding and coffee cupping, including an introduction to Barista training. 

  • Entrepreneurship and inclusive business: covers sales and marketing, logistics, import/export and international trade. Students also learn how to develop, write and evaluate a fully-costed business plan.

Reach: 85 young farmers (aged 16-34) enrolled on the course