The Dominican Republic stretches over the eastern half of Hispaniola, an island in the Antilles archipelago. Since around 1780, when Spanish colonists introduced coffee to the western region of the country near the Haitian border.
Coffee production has spread across most of the territory with the Sierra de Neyba Mountains proving to be one of the most successful production areas.
Declared a national park in 1995, the Sierra de Neyba range lies between two parallel mountain chains that run from 1,700 to 2,300 meters in altitude, the Montagnes Noires and the Trou d'Eau of Haiti, and covers part of the provinces of Elías Piña, San Juan, Indipendencia and Bahoruco. The presidium was founded in Sierra de Neyba, among the provinces of Independencia, Bahoruco and Elias Piña.
In this area, small-scale producers organized into cooperatives cultivate an excellent quality mountain coffee. Varietals of Arabica Typica and Caturra are grown in small lots at an altitude above 1250 meters in sandy and clay-rich soils under the shade of tall trees. The coffee is processed traditionally; after being harvested the beans are stripped, undergo a short period of fermentation, then are washed and dried. All production phases are carried out locally on a small scale and without any chemical treatment.
At the beginning of the 1990s, coffee cultivation was particularly strong in the area. More than 450 families were organized into producer associations and involved full time in the art of coffee production.
In the mid 1990s, however, gradually more than 70 percent of the families cultivating coffee had to abandon their activities. The abandonment of coffee cultivation can be understood through three phenomena: mass emigration to shantytowns around the city, the substitution of coffee crops with pastures and crops that have shorter production cycles like yautìa (a local tuber) and the inevitable environmental consequences on the land of deforestation, impoverished soil and water scarcity.
In order to improve the quantity and quality of coffee production, it is necessary to look at several crucial elements: increasing the altitude threshold of the plantations, favoring the planting of the indigenous Typica variety and the hardy and productive Caturra variety and introducing tall trees such as the avocado, zapote, guanàbana, citrus and mango. Sierra Cafetalera coffee is produced in the provinces of Independencia, Bahoruco and Elias Piña, Sierra de Neyba.
Photos—Archivio Slow Food