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Top coffee from Nicaragua, sustainably grown

Hand picked coffee beans from Finca Bethania
Hand picked coffee beans from Finca Bethania

"Finca Bethania" is a small coffee producer in the northern highlands of Nicaragua on the border with Honduras. The nature there is lush, the soil fertile – good conditions for growing coffee. The business is run by the sisters Martha and Ana Albir. They also commercialize Finca Bethania´s coffee through their dry mill “Cafetos de Segovia” in the nearby town of Mozonte.

On 40 hectares of land, Finca Bethania cultivates exclusively Arabica plants and the hand-picked beans are refined through special fermentation processes to get a top-quality coffee. It produces about 900 bags of 70 kilograms each per year and Cafetos de Segovia sells it mainly to Australia, Germany and the USA. Compared to large coffee plantations, these are small quantities, but "we attach great importance to the quality and taste of our specialty coffee," says Martha Albir.

And on sustainability in cultivation. Finca Bethania 70% less water than conventional coffee producers because the owners have purchased new, more efficient milling machines and because the farm processes a substantial portion of its harvest in – what is called – the “natural” process. Wherever possible, they use organic waste as fertilizer, for example from the unneeded pulp or the skin of the coffee fruit. This way, the Albir sisters use 50% less fertilizer than the market.

Higher wages, good food

Social aspects are also important to them. "We pay more and the working conditions are generally better than elsewhere," says Matha Albir. The seasonal workers who come to pick the beans have free board and lodging. "In the harvest season between December and April, we hire extra cooks to keep everyone well fed."

Because Finca Bethania and Cafetos de Segovia do not work with the traditional, "industrial" methods, but rather consider ecological and social aspects in coffee production, they are certified by the NGO Rain Forest Alliance. And they also meet the criteria for a credit from the eco.business Fund, which the Albir sisters also received and which they have used to buy new equipment, among other things.

KfW Development Bank founded the eco.business Fund in 2014 on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) together with the NGO Conservation International and the financial services provider Finance in Motion. Its aim is to create incentives for a "green economy" and thus replace environmentally harmful production methods with sustainable variants.

One of the top threats to humanity

This is done in the belief that this is the only way to slow down the rate at which natural resources are lost. At present, too often forests give way to farmland, meadows fall victim to industrial agriculture, soil degrades, swamps dry up or groundwater tables sink. Added to this is climate change, which is also leaving deep scars. The World Economic Forum now classifies the loss of ecosystems and biodiversity as one of the top threats to humanity.

To counteract this, KfW has set up the eco.business Fund. As a rule, the fund grants "green credit lines" to local banks, which in turn grant loans to local enterprises at favourable conditions. The recipients must have sustainability certificates, for example from Rainforest Alliance or FSC, or aim to acquire them. Companies in agriculture, forestry, tourism and fishing are supported.

Sisters Ana and Martha Albir sorting the coffee beans
The sisters Ana and Martha Albir.

Since its establishment, the fund has disbursed loans of more than EUR 570 million to final borrowers such as the Albir sisters. And it has already achieved a lot. Among other things, it has helped to save more than 4 million cubic metres of water and protect more than 90,000 hectares of land from deforestation. Because of its great success in Latin America, where it began, KfW extended it to sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2019.

Stuck without loans

The eco.business Fund is doing real pioneering work. Its composition is special because it brings together private and state investors for resource protection. The participation of public institutions creates a risk buffer for other investors – this makes the fund more attractive for private capital. In the meantime, private investments already account for 30% of the total volume in Latin America.

In any case, the loan from the fund has helped Ana and Martha Albir to keep their business running and to achieve their high quality standards. "Loans on good terms are very important for our company," says Martha Albir, "without them we would be lost". Now the entrepreneur hopes that the business will continue to flourish and that her special coffee will find even more enthusiasts in Europe.

Learn more about the eco.business Fund:

Broschure – Stimulus for a Green Economy  (PDF, 1 MB, accessible)

Video about the eco.business Fund (3:06 min.)