From small coffee farmers to a coffee business entrepreneur

In May 2016, we had the great opportunity to visit a farm in Antioquia, where we visited one of the farmers from one of our clusters in Colombia. Doña Zenaida and Don Arley, owners of “La Montañita,” were expecting us with enthusiasm.

Despite the 20 visitors, including several “gringos” and a full team with big cameras and strange devices (e.g., a drone), they welcomed all of us and spoke very proudly about their farm. What caught my attention was that Don Arley referred to his wife as his business partner, as his daily support and as the person that makes him a better husband, person and human today.

Women are often behind the scenes in our society. This is common in the coffee industry as well where women are relegated to an invisible role that doesn’t represent their contribution at the farm level. Women are usually hidden in the kitchen when a visitor arrives, especially customers like us. But not that day; Zenaida and Arley were both hosting us and answering all our questions.

Part of our curiosity that brought us to visit this particular farm that day was how S&D Sustainable Sourcing program has impacted them.

“In the past I saw this property as a simple coffee farm, and I even “maybe” lost money, but today we see it as a family business, where we need to keep record of all of our expenses, how much time I and my wife dedicated to the farm chores, etc.,” said Don Arley. “Today, we see the importance of having these records. We see how we can improve in areas to spend less resources, as well it allows us to evaluate if this is a real business… and… for us it is… we have seen profit in the past two years… ”

“Our coffee business today seems more organized, not only on the financial side, but also our house and farm is organized,” added Doña Zenaida. “We now can find a screwdriver, a nail, everything is on its place… our wet and dry mill is clean and that allows us to process good coffee.” Even more important for both of them, “their profitability of coffee have allowed them to make some investments in their home.”

Don Arley and Doña Zenaida’s testimonies illustrate how our Sustainable Sourcing Platform is a co-investment of not only financial resources from all the actors on the value chain, but also an effort to show new best practices at the farm level in an holistic approach that allows farmers to:

  • Build capacity: providing farmers with technical assistance and farm management guidance to support small farmers as they grow
  • Improving resiliency: working directly with our origin partners to ensure real, sustainable success in the future
  • Driving performance: leveraging expertise and resources of our trading partners for scale and efficiency
  • Delivering real impact: working to improve farm productivity and soil health while reducing production costs and water intensity

It’s clear that Don Arley and Doña Zenaida is just one farm, and there is more that needs to be done to make changes and impact the industry successfully on a larger scale. At S&D, we are in a learning curve right now to understand how we can use testimonies such as Don Arley and Doña Zenaida as role models for our 17 projects in six countries impacting more than 4,500 farmers.

If you want to learn more about S&D’s sustainability program, read about our commitment to sustainable coffee and tea.

La Montanita3