Brewing a Sustainable Cuppa with Café Compadre

There’s a reason for Cristobal Olórtegui a coffee farmer from the Sauriaki community in Peru to smile as he reaps the fruits of his labour – wiping the coffee foam moustache as he takes a sip. For 43 years he has been selling raw coffee beans for US $ 2.50 per/ kilogram (kg) but now he makes $ 4.3 per/kg by processing and roasting coffee with a little bit of help from the sun!

Cristobal and 10 more families from the community are all beneficiaries of a Café Compadre social enterprise that roasts coffee beans using sunlight available to farmers free of cost. The company provides training to farmers like Cristobal on how to operate the roaster and set up sales channels to distribute the coffee produced by them.

Coffee is Peru’s top agricultural export product, however, small farmers like Cristobal remain recipients of an inequitable distribution system that plagues the coffee production chain. According to U.S. sociologist J.M. Talbot, small-scale coffee producers earn less than 12 percent of the product’s end value; those handling the selection of beans, roasting and packaging earn over 70 percent. With access to modern technology and competitive returns for their produce remaining largely elusive for these farmers, Café Compadre has tried to plug a major gap in the coffee production ecosystem.

Cristobal tasting his own coffee for the first time ever. (Photo credit: Compadre Team)



Cristobal in the forest. (Photo credit: Compadre Team)

Cristobal loading green coffee beans inside the roasting drum. (Photo Credit: Compadre Team)

Final package Café Compadre with Cristobal’s name. (Photo credit: Fiorella Belli)

When Café Compadre entered the empowering people. Award in 2016, our esteemed jury impressed by the innovation and its impact potential and declared it as a winner. The network has run two international award rounds to choose best low-tech global solutions with sustainable social impacts. It, therefore, becomes imperative that the network assess the social impact of each entry.While the numbers of social enterprises along with their influence on society and economics are on the rise, how do we actually measure the impact that they create?

According to Clifford (2014) social impact is usually defined in reference to four key elements:

  • the value created as a consequence of someone’s activity (Emerson et al., 2000);
  • the value experienced by beneficiaries and all others affected (Kolodinsky et al., 2006);
  • an impact that includes both positive and negative effects (Wainwright, 2002);
  • an impact that is judged against a benchmark of what the situation would have been without the proposed activity.

Let’s take this hypothesis to study the social impact of Café Compadre that made it stand-out out from over 800 entries from 88 countries making it amongst the top 23 solutions. A fully scalable technology, the device can be designed to produce larger quantities of coffee, thus being a bridge between the farmers and the market cutting intermediaries that most often pocket a lion’s share of the revenues. The roaster is portable and doesn’t require additional space roasting 1 kg of coffee beans in approximately 15 to 25 minutes. With next to no carbon footprint the technology requires five times less energy than conventional devices! The roasted beans are packaged under the Café Compadre brand bearing the farmer’s name. The revenue is distributed in a way that the farmers can earn up to 60% more from producing along with farming.

 Installation of solar panels for the community’s first Solar Station ‘Estelita Station’. (Photo credit:Diana Arteta)

A pilot project ran in 2015 when a single farmer roasted 600kg of beans. In 2016 they expanded the operation by installing a solar facility in the village that can process 6,000kg of green and roasted coffee. Earlier they received fetching returns only for 65% of the raw coffee beans as the rest would sell at much lower prices due to inferior quality.The farmers are now more aware, efficient and skilled to produce better quality beans. With lucrative earnings and a viable living inside their own community, they are not forced to migrate to the city hunting for greener pastures. The enterprise believes that they are ‘showing the world that a value chain based on solar energy is possible making 100% ecological and socially fair coffee’.

The brand has a strong subscription base and dropouts have been very few, they are now supplying to cafeterias, restaurants and offices in Peru. As the enterprise aims to export the roasted coffee in Europe and North America, it is still an uphill task for them to increase the capacity of the facility, improve the processes and widen their customer base.

It is not the company alone but even a 65-year-old Christobal who had never imagined a life outside his community plans to broaden his horizon by opening a cafeteria. ‘All these years as a coffee farmer I never knew the taste of my home-grown coffee. When I see my name on the package I feel so good about what I have achieved,’ says Christobal. There’s a sense of pride as the 10 families from Sauriaki community move up the socio-economic ladder–from being just farmers they are now skilled coffee producers. While there are other organisations in Peru that work with coffee framers helping them improve yield and sell at a better price but the production process still takes place in the city depriving farmers of an independent and a sustainable future.

Compadre Team conducts tests of the new hybrid roaster with the community. (Photo credit:Diana Arteta)

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