Coffee: A vehicle of peace for Colombia

After 50 years of conflict in Colombia, the guerrilla FACR and Colombian government were protagonists of a historical step — the signing of a bilateral agreement and ceasefire. As Colombians, this moment left many of us with a tremendous hope for a better country, where all of the 43 million Colombians, including the most affected ones in rural areas, have plenty of new opportunities on the horizon without the fear that was generated by the internal conflict.

This is an important achievement for a country that is eager to overcome all the violence it has suffered. Today, we have a big commitment as Colombians to understand our role and how we can contribute to this process — requiring us to look at participation from a global perspective and for members of the coffee industry, understanding the key role we can play.

During the months-long negotiation, the agrarian reform was on the table as one of the main topics to discuss and try to reach an agreement. 70% of food that we consume comes from the peasants, and most of them live in poverty condition and in conflict areas.

The situation surrounding rural communities in Colombia

  • According to the World Bank, 26.5% of the Colombian population lives in rural areas.
  • 4% of the population owns 46% of the land in Colombia.
  • There is lack of technical assistance for farmers, and no access to tech information and new technology to manage data.
  • Farmers do not have access to credit.
  • 83% of the children from rural communities do not attend to school.
  • Six million members of the rural population have been displaced from their communities (8 million hectares).
  • There is a lack of economic opportunities for rural development.

Today, we see a complex scenario; this historical movement represents a transcendental peace agreement that requires huge rural development plans with extraordinary opportunities to develop a greater country through a potential agricultural sector in Colombia.

As part of the agrarian reform agreement, the following key elements may be negotiated to support this sector:

  • Redistribute of land that belongs to the government or that has been abandoned or seized by law.
  • Offer an agriculture program development to new land owners, investing in technical assistance, technology and credit.
  • Improve regional and national infrastructure (roads, bridges electricity, health centers, etc.)

The following months in which the final agreement will be signed and the post-conflict plans will be designed and implemented represent potential opportunities for coffee growers and for the coffee industry. Coffee is cultivated in 20 of the 32 Departments in Colombia. There are more than 550,000 coffee producers, and the industry provides indirect employment for more than two million Colombians in rural communities and urban centers. Several coffee communities are located in geographic areas affected by conflict, and with the implementation of post-conflict key activities, more coffee farmers will have access to and will engage in the planning efforts that will potentially shape economic opportunities for farmers and communities.

For S&D and other agricultural industry traders, this time represents an extraordinary window to help shape a more sustainable trading platform for coffee — where we can add the voice of the final consumers and buyers with a transparent and open mind for social, economic and environmental aspects and impacts of sustainability.

In this scenario, we as an industry can better support and contribute the efforts at origin since our sustainability models offer productive opportunities, connect with direct markets and provide tools that will shape a new coffee sustainable model for those that have been in the isolated areas of Colombia, where there was not access to tech information, knowledge and innovation previously.

Today, we can use everything that we have learned from these models and spread this knowledge to one of the most needed populations in Colombia: coffee growers and their communities.