Today broke bright, breezy and warm in the Nicaraguan highlands and, to celebrate, our AMRDI group headed off in a pair of different directions: Mike, Polina and Alyssa went to sample a smattering of local coffees from Gold Mountain Coffee Growers, while Matt and I went to interview the heads of a small collective an hour outside the city, in the direction of Jinotega.
Our journey started on the same steep roads out of town that we've been following to survey pickers in recent days, but after a few new lefts and rights we were working our way along the rim of a different valley. Coffee farms dotted the landscape, and soon we were turning off onto a dirt road that cut into the valley's heart.
There we met three men, local Nicaraguans, who work alongside 60 other farmers to form a cooperative to help them procure markets and secure credit. They started in 1993. Their aims are to build solid lives for themselves in the coffee industry, and we were there to find out how they were doing.
They sat, shared a cup with us, and talked to us for more than an hour about the challenges and changes they've seen as Matagalpa-area growers over recent decades. From accessing credit to finding markets to climate impacts, these are the guys who have been on the ground. They were a tremendous help to our research.
After that Matt and I caught a local bus back to Matagalpa to pull together details from the interviews. Mike, Polina and Alyssa were still in the thick of sampling many (many many) of the fine coffee varieties that grow locally, so Matt and I took the rest of the afternoon to regroup and work on developing AMRDI media. Be sure to look for something in that realm soon (including at the this year's Telluride Film Festival)!
Our trip has hit the halfway point. We have only a few days left. So tomorrow will be a storm of interviews plus some more coffee tasting plus more surveying. Friday is another set of interviews, this time in Jinotega. Already we are feeling good about the collection we've done so far, but it's clear Nicaragua is full of research potential for AMRDI, and that we are beginning to quantify some interesting feedback through rarely asked questions. Our next visit is already being planned...