By Maxime Couasse, PUR Projet’s coordinator in South America.
This was my first field mission in Cauca, Colombia, and I first discovered breathtaking landscapes through the plane’s window: Puracé volcano in the south (4650 meters above sea level), small family-run coffee plantations, but also large single-species forest areas.
In Rosas I met with Diana Rendon, a dynamic technician of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), dedicated to the agroforestry projects implemented with the help of PUR Projet. The road was winding but it was nothing compared to the road we would use to reach the coffee plots …
We spent the day collecting data on mortality of trees planted in 2014. I discovered the working conditions of FNC’s technicians: the work is really tough, coffee plantations are located in mountain areas, steep, with slopes over 25% (55°), a dense vegetation and very hot weather.
In the morning we went to Ufugu, a small village where we met Don Kenide, a coffee farmer also leader in the area. He offered us food and we took a seat outside on the front porch.
Don Kenide is only 45 years old but his face is marked by an outdoor life . He was born in Ufugu, grew up there with 5 brothers and sisters and remained there ever since. He got married and had a daughter. He told me with pride that his 4 years-old grandson, Camillo, already knows how to ride and that he hopes he will later take over his farm, to continue the work of his life. He explained how his village has evolved and organized to improve the life quality of its inhabitants. First, thanks to the FNC, which was created in the early 20th century and allowed the coffee-growing families to collectively manage the production and sales of coffee. Secondly, because in Ufugu, people are unified and succeeded in perpetuating the pre-Columbian tradition of “mingas” – collective works aiming at community development. People created pathways, built a school, an aqueduct, but also planted trees on community lands. As a result of this collective work, almost all of the Ufugu farms are Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality, Fair Trade and Rainforest certified.
Don Kenide also explained how Nespresso’s AAA program has greatly influenced the life quality of local farmers, allowing them to sell coffee at a better price, while improving the management and organization of their farms.
Don Kenide argues that agroforestry is a solution to protect nature for future generations, while improving the quality of water sources, limiting soil erosion and also diversifying the farmers’ revenues, which are still mainly dependent on coffee prices.
Don Kenide is a very important person for the success of the project, as he is a respected local leader promoting greatly the benefits of agroforestry . Last year, he was elected as the farmers’ representative for the 8 villages of Rosas municipality. He is a strong advocate for trees. His wife, Mirevi Cabrera, is a school teacher and also planted trees in the school, to educate children on the environment . I realize now the importance of these local leaders, without whom local projects could not succeed.
Picture: Christian Lamontagne