Bringing solar to a Women's Coffee Cooperative in El Regadio, Nicaragua: November 9-16, 2019

In November 2019, eleven GRID participants traveled with GRID to Nicaragua to support women by bringing a solar-powered coffee grinder and roaster to a women's agricultural cooperative in El Regadio. With the ability to roast and grind their coffee beans locally with the power of the sun, the women's cooperative is now able to offer higher value coffee products in the market and generate additional income to support the community and their families.

Landscape view of El Regadio. Green lush mountains in distance.
Jinotega is known for its cool climate, its mountainous terrain, and its ideal conditions for growing coffee. Most families in El Regadio make their living through agriculture.
The community of El Regadio is part of the municipality of San Sebastian de Yalí, in the department of Jinotega in north central Nicaragua. Jinotega is known for its cool climate, mountainous terrain, and ideal conditions for growing coffee.  El Regadio is home to 175 people, and most members of the community make their living through agriculture and raising cattle. Coffee is the most important crop cultivated in the area, although community members also produce corn, beans, vegetables, fruits and dairy products.

Members of the coffee cooperative standing in front of the new building constructed for the coffee roaster.
The Cooperativa Agropecuaria Manantial de Virtudes (Spring of Virtures Agricultural Cooperative) is a women's cooperative made up of 97 women. Nearly all the women work in coffee cultivation, and they come together to jointly sell their coffee beans, among other products. They had already produced a custom label for their products, and began selling their coffee at a kiosk in the municipality of Yali. As they continue to grow their business, the cooperative had been looking for ways to add value to their product, and so developed the idea with GRID of a solar-powered coffee grinder and roaster (molino y tostaduria de café) . The president of the cooperative, Carmen Zelaya, says that the solar-powered coffee roasting equipment enables the women to offer more products at a higher price, increasing their income and ability to support their families. The women in the cooperative had already organized and completed the construction of a brand new building for the business, which is the home for the solar system and the coffee grinder and roasting equipment it powers.

GRID participants installing solar on the roof of the coffee cooperative building
Due to the community's small size and remoteness, the national electrical grid has not been extended to El Regadio. GRID Alternatives has been working together with the community since 2017 to increase their energy access with solar. GRID partnered with the community to install an off-grid solar system on their local school and 20 solar home systems in 2017, and again in early 2019 to install 15 additional solar home systems and 9 improved cookstoves. In November, GRID participants and staff worked alongside members of the women's cooperative to install a solar-powered coffee grinder and roaster for GRID's fourth project in El Regadio. The project has unlocked new opportunities for the women's cooperative and the El Regadio community. GRID first became connected to El Regadio through a Bay Area homeowner who got solar with GRID. Read the whole story here

GRID participants in front of the coffee cooperative building
During their 8-day trip in Nicaragua, participants had the chance to experience Nicaraguan culture, learn about community-centered sustainable development, and explore the roots of energy poverty. They were immersed in the rural community, staying with local host families and working alongside the women's cooperative, community members and GRID staff during the project. They had the opportunity to learn from the women's cooperative about their organization and the projects they implement in their community, as well as tour the coffee plantations in El Regadio, see the process of coffee production, and cook and share local foods with families. Before and after the project, they participated in unique cultural activities in Nicaragua. Check out our upcoming projects if you're interested in traveling with GRID to Nicaragua, Mexico or Nepal to get hands-on with renewable energy!

Check out the photos from the installation! 

 

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