As we are not able to visit our dear friends in origin, we have reached out to them in other ways instead. Stay up to date with the talented craftsmen in your favourite coffee region in this new series.
We have recently reached out to Daniela Rodriguez. Daniela works with her brother and father in the Bolivian coffee industry. Under their mother company, Agricafé, they have several lots of land.
Casper: First of all, how is the political situation in Bolivia these days. You have been through quite a lot this last year!
Daniela: The political situation in Bolivia is very fragile. In November 2019, after electoral fraud and 3 weeks of protests, Evo Morales stepped down and Janine Añez assumed the presidency as interim president, which was supposed to last 3 months.
As Covid hit Bolivia in March, elections got permanently postponed, and finally took place in October 2020. Unfortunately, having an interim president for a year, was no good for the country, people’s votes got more and more divided, the economic situation got worse and amid a pandemic, everything constantly got more difficult.
On 18th October the elections took place and at first, it was a tight run between Evo Morales party “MAS” and the opposition, but at some point, it was pretty clear, that MAS had won, which was a downturn for many Bolivians, but as there is no evidence about fraud or similar, Luis Arce took office as of November 2020. Bolivians have divided as well as the party MAS.
Evo Morales has returned to Bolivia. Nobody really knows what the future for Bolivia holds, we can only hope for the best.
Casper: What is the situation like in your country regarding coronavirus right now?
Daniela: Bolivia’s first Covid case was registered in March after which strict measures were taken. The entire country entered into a strict lockdown, where people were only allowed to leave their houses once a week, according to their ID number. The peak of the pandemic was around July/August, and the medical system in Bolivia reached its limit.
Fortunately, since mid-September, fewer and fewer cases have been registered and life has slowly been going back to normal. People are still scared and we are not sure if the second wave will be in December or March.
Casper: Is it different between the country in general and your region in particular?
Daniela: In the beginning, the most affected region was Santa Cruz, which was very critical. When Santa Cruz seemed to have gone through the worst, other regions in Bolivia, like La Paz started to register more and more cases.
The situation is not the same in the entire country, but this is also due to the population density in different cities. Additionally, it’s difficult to really keep track, because a big amount of people here will not go to a doctor when infected, so that their cases won’t be officially registered.
Casper: Are you, your family, or anyone at the farm affected by coronavirus?
Daniela: The peak of the pandemic in Bolivia was right during harvest season. Nature does not stop, so work had to go on - on the fields and at the wet mill. Many people in Bolivia don’t believe in the virus, so they don’t take the necessary precautions, and this leads to many people getting infected. Thankfully, nobody had to go through complications.
Casper: Do you feel safe or is there a sense of uncertainty?
Daniela: The uncertainty in Bolivia is the bad health system. It is a strange feeling to know, that if anybody close to you catches the virus and it gets complicated, the health system in Bolivia is not prepared and might not even have the capacity to assist you. Apart from the virus, the political uncertainty that exists is complicated as Bolivian’s do not know what will happen.
Casper: Has the work on the farm been impacted in any way by coronavirus?
Daniela: In order to avoid people getting infected, we had to take special measures. We built camps for 80 people on the farms so that pickers could sleep and live there and not have to go back and forth to the town on a daily basis. Additionally, due to the restrictions, we had to properly plan everything in order to be able to transport the cherries to our mill as nobody could move the first two months.
Casper: Do you have any new measures in place to protect yourself from coronavirus?
Daniela: Yes, we are all using face masks, maintaining distance at the workspace.
We built hand washers at the farms and at the mills disinfecting the spaces constantly.
Casper: Any new processing methods, investments, new staff, etc.?
Daniela: This year we have already been working on many new things we are excited for you to see and try next year!!
In terms of investment, we bought new fermentation tanks stain steel, to have a more controlled and consistent fermentation process, and we invested in different machinery for the wet mills. We are very excited to share this with you all and show you the new measures that we are implementing at the wet mill.
We would like to thank Daniela Rodriguez for the very important update from her farm. We feel with the many Bolivians who are affected by the current situation.
We hope this can be helpful and educative in these difficult times.
Stay safe, and take care.