Volcano supports sustainable livelihoods in Colombia through Raw Materials' Red Associations project.
They were guided around Red Associations' farms in Huila and Pitalito by Mat and Jessie May from Raw Materials, which have been working in the area since 2017.
For Colombian coffee farmers, coffee is not just their main source of income. Coffee is the lifeblood of this community and provides the majority of their annual income but, despite good production levels, income from coffee dropped to unsustainable levels a few years ago for farmers country-wide .
Farmers were facing a crossroad - either find alternative means of income outside coffee, or find a more stable and sustainable market. That's why, in 2017, Raw Material met with coffee producer groups to understand what was preventing farmers from accessing the specialty market.
Raw Materials heard about the lack of key infrastructure, the lack of stable prices to provide certainty for investment in improved quality. To address these challenges, Volcano Coffee Works helped them launch Red Associations to achieve stable and sustainable prices for community coffee lots through improved quality control, shared knowledge, and a connection to the specialty coffee market.
Raw Materials' commitment to paying a fixed price for coffee gives farmers a much needed stable and secure income, at a higher price than they were receiving previously. By working with Raw Materials', farmers have been able to increase their annual income from coffee by a minimum of 60% each year.
We encourage farmers to reinvest this extra income back into their farms, by upgrading their coffee drying beds, making improvements to their processing methods, and experimenting with micro lots of new coffee crops. These sorts of upgrades are are key to farmers being able to improve the quality of their coffee so they can command even higher prices.
Visible signs of progress in the broader community have been noticed since Raw Material have been working with farmers in Colombia three years ago.
For example, after the El Carmen Association was established, houses in the village have been re-roofed and re-rendered. In addition, young farmers and female farmers have joined the El Carmen Association, bringing in much needed gender diversification and demonstrating that the next generation can see a future in coffee production.
Red Associations encourages farmers to protect their local environment and eco-systems. We have asked Raw Material to share best practices for environmental protection as part of their their coffee processing trainings, and to encourage farmers to adopt these practices.
Though changing perceptions can take time, farmers who already recognise the importance of protecting their local eco-systems have implemented their own environmental initiatives. For example William, a progressive young farmer, has set aside over 40% of his farm to forest regeneration.
Try these farmers' coffee for yourself - every cup of Fullsteam coffee you drink, and every bag of Crisis Coffee you buy, supports Great Lakes Coffee's work in Uganda.