Carlos Manuel Ortiz Pérez (’06, Costa Rica)
Carlos Ortiz describes his EARTH education—made possible thanks to a scholarship from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation—as a “key that opened the door to limitless opportunities to make a real impact for building a better world.” Nearly 10 years since his graduation, Carlos is proving this to be true.
After completing a Master’s in agricultural business management Carlos was hired by Volcafe, the global coffee supplier, to help Costa Rican coffee farmers improve social and environmental practices and earn sustainable coffee certifications. Carlos was later nominated and selected to participate in an internal leadership development program at Volcafe. Following the completion of that program, in 2011 Carlos served as the company’s manager of specialty and sustainable coffee in Colombia, and was later promoted to assistant general manager of Volcafe Guatemala. He is now back in Costa Rica serving as Volcafe’s global coordinator of specialty and sustainable origin coffee.
In his current role, Carlos leads a program to support farmer development in 10 countries in the Americas, Africa, and Asia, aimed at improving the quality of life in coffee farming families and communities. This project has already benefited approximately 2,900 small-scale farmers in Costa Rica—with expectations to reach thousands more families worldwide—through farmer trainings, community projects and partnerships, IT solutions, and services to increase the profitability of the coffee farms.
“I’m motivated by the fact that my work is improving the lives of coffee farmers, their families and communities around the world, and that without our efforts, that might not have happened otherwise,” remarks Carlos, who is deeply committed to doing what he can to mitigate poverty and bring hope wherever he goes, especially in agricultural communities.
Carlos recognizes that his commitment and empathy toward rural communities and his profound environmental and social conscience are products of his four years at EARTH.
“Much more than the academic preparation I received, EARTH taught me how to live, how to connect with people very different than me, with situations that I had never seen or considered. EARTH gave me the tools to propose solutions.” With the tools and the skills to connect with farmers, Carlos has endeared himself to the coffee farmers he has worked with. This, he adds, is his greatest remuneration.
“I believe that people are good, and when you attend to the needs of others it generates a satisfaction that no sum of money can replace,” reflects Carlos.
Recognizing the work of his fellow EARTH alumni around the world, Carlos is convinced that: “If you want to invest in a more intelligent world, invest in education. But if you really want to generate a positive impact in the world, that little by little permeates all systems of a society, invest in an EARTH student.”