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Nespresso Columbia Project Day 4

Friday, June 1 – Day 4: Jardín School Visit and Central Mill tour
Blog by Natalie Afonina

Today was a bittersweet day. After a wonderful three days with my host family, it was time to say our tearful goodbyes. After another huge breakfast of chicharrón (pork rinds), fresh milk and arepa (flat, round, unleavened cornmeal cake), Gunnar and I hugged Hernando and Marina, drank our last cup of lulu juice and were whisked away to visit the local primary school with Mike and the rest of the young explorers. The school kids crowded within the colorful classroom walls adorned with handcrafted butterflies, letters of the alphabet and on the chalkboard a special welcome message just for us. After we each gave an introduction about ourselves and where we come from, Mike asked the students to come up to the front of the classroom and tell us their name and age; some were shy and quiet, others gregarious and funny, but every one of them had a hint of a smile on their faces when they got up out of their tiny plastic chairs and stood in front of Mike and the team.

Next, Annika gave an amazing slideshow talk describing Mike’s travels and accomplishments in fluent Spanish. Then, two of the school’s students gave a presentation describing the problem of waste-disposal in Jardín, how they have organized several trash cleanup operations on the sides of the neighboring roads and what else needs to be done to address the growing problem of trash accumulation. A spontaneous game of volleyball ensued after the serious conversation, with Mike and the PANGAEA team on one side of the net, and the older school children and staff on the other team. It was a neck-and-neck game of volleys, spikes on the concrete! We wrapped up the afternoon with a big picnic in the grass together and then said our goodbyes to head over to visit a farm with its own wet mill.

The farmer was very proud of his coffee de-pulping and processing system that used a minimal amount of water to wash the coffee. I was most impressed by the water sewage treatment method that involved a series of carefully-routed pipes, and a black tank that used microorganisms to break down the harmful components in the waste runoff from the coffee washing. It was a very effective setup, but unfortunately it would be difficult to implement such an operation at each Nespresso farm, because of the prohibitive initial cost of the technology, which is why the central wet mill is a better alternative for most farmers that need to depulp and wash their coffee.

Today was not only our last morning with our host families, but it was also our last day with Mike, so that evening we had a debrief about possible future projects in the area, with an emphasis on discussing what ideas we should prioritize to make a lasting, yet immediate impact on the people and environment of Jardín. Some of the ideas we tossed around were selling embroidery to give the farmer’s women another source of income, tree planting to minimize land erosion and landslides, and working to create more of a community for the Nespresso farmers to foster loyalty and so that the farmers could feel proud of their hard work. Today was yet another full, eye-opening day in Colombia.

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