This summer, I had the privilege to join Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) during Coffee Camp in Copán, Honduras. Coffee Camp is a multi-stakeholder initiative led by HRNS, which brings together local institutions and the coffee community. The aim is to guide youth in developing a network of young coffee entrepreneurs. The coffee producing community of Copán although small and usually quiet, is home to inspiring initiatives which work to unlock the full potential of youth in Central America. As it stands, coffee farmers are currently struggling to make ends meet and earn a sustainable livelihood, making it difficult to engage the younger generation into being part of the coffee community.

The emotion started to kick in as I saw several full buses approaching from across the country and heard shouts and cheers from a distance. Youth quickly got out of the buses and rushed to get in line as they carried backpacks filled with clothes for their four day stay. Over 100 youngsters attended the camp at the Honduras Coffee Institute (IHCAFÉ).  

“Throughout the years, I’ve witnessed my family’s struggle in staying up to date with the latest technology and practices for coffee farming. I’ve always wanted to study agronomy and find new methods, varieties and tools to improve our coffee quality and increase production. The moment I found out that HRNS was giving youth the opportunity to take part in workshops and trainings regarding adaptation practices, soil & water management, and ICTs (Information Communication Technologies). I asked my father to please sign me up”,

said Josue Melendez, a 22-year-old coffee farmer from Corquín.

Josue Melendez

The coffee community made up of passionate baristas, coffee shop owners, farmers, farmer organizations, traders, universities and IHCAFÉ participated in the event to share their expertise. Together, with other leading mentors in the industry, they led 10 hands-on learning stations which opened a whole new world of exploration, training opportunities and learning about the coffee value chain.

It was great to see some of the youth who had already been part of one of HRNS’s programs participate in Coffee Camp. Some shared their experiences with adapting climate-smart agricultural practices into their farms, advances, challenges and their overall take from joining past projects, while others were only beginning to learn.

Some of the topics explored were climate–smart agriculture, processing, roasting, cupping, barista skills and marketing, developing a network of support and friendship in the process. Even though many expressed their concerns of knowing little about coffee cupping and roasting, Coffee Camp was the perfect opportunity for them to learn. Even I, who was in charge of taking pictures and part of the organizing team, quietly slipped into a couple of workshops to learn as well! Like many other youth participants, I started the day without knowing how to accurately distinguish flavors during coffee cupping but left with the knowledge and understanding of how to correctly practice and cup at home.

Cupping

Barista

Use of ICT’s in production

Water & soil management

In addition, youth learned about the initiative for coffee&climate and studies and analysis of new technologies for adapting to climate change. They also participated in the entrepreneurship fair where they shared and discovered new innovative coffee businesses established by other youth from the region such as creating their own coffee brands and offering coffee roasting and on-farm maintenance services. We also had the opportunity to visit local coffee shops where coffee pulp tea was sold, coffee candle shops and more.

From left to right: Gerson Lopez, Josue Melendez

“Being able to hear other youth from Honduras share their success stories and mentor us based on their personal experience building their own business is truly inspiring. Just the thought of realizing that they were once in my position and come from a background of coffee as well, motivates me and the rest of my group members to continue believing in what we are capable of”.  – Josue Melendez

As Verena Fischersworring, the visionary behind Coffee Camps puts it, 

“Opportunities open once we are able to defeat our mental barriers. That everything depends on ME, the theme of Coffee Camp.”

Many of the youth I shared time with expressed their aspiration towards exporting their family’s coffee, becoming professional baristas, opening their own coffee shops and making their coffee farms climate resilient. Different personalities, different interests, but many opportunities to choose from; Coffee Camp was definitely the space where everyone got to explore and discover the different areas of interest coffee offers.

As we walked back from the coffee demo plot, to the main building after the last workshop ended, I asked Elizabeth Pineda, a 24-year-old 3rd generation coffee farmer from Ocotepeque, to share what she took out the most from her days at Coffee Camp.  Elizabeth said,

“I am so appreciative with everyone who made this event possible. We are truly privileged to have had the opportunity to take part in four days full of learning. Coffee Camp helped us discover new opportunities around coffee, gave us the knowledge we want to apply at home and most importantly, made us discover the transformative potential of youth in the region”. 

This year’s Coffee Camp was made possible with the support from The Honduran Coffee Institute (IHCAFÉ), BID LAB, World Vision, Fundación Etea and Curoc University, working together to inspire youth to uncover new possibilities in coffee beyond the farm and look within themselves to discover their potential.

Coffee Camp is only one of the many local HRNS events that promotes sustainable development within the coffee sector and goes beyond productivity and coffee quality. It is our goal to release the potential of the young generations to shape rural areas of the future. To know more about HRNS’s current work and youth projects, visit www.hrnstiftung.org.

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