By Carlos Andres Guzman,
We had the incredible opportunity to spend some days with the Arhuaco community in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This was certainly one of the most humbling experiences we had in a very long time and certainly the beginning of a new journey. Despite the multiple challenges, from the capuchin mission to the Colombian armed conflict, the indigenous communities from Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, resisted, remained strong and today they became a model of sustainability and lasting peace for the world.
We came back to Colombia during an incredible period of transformation and multiple challenges. However, it is gratifying that despite the challenges, there are communities around the country such as the Arhuaco community that continues to plant seeds of hope and peace in Colombia.
The Arhuaco community, along the Kogi, Wiwas and Kankuamo communities from Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta came together to form ANEI, which is a coffee project that has been producing one of the most exotic and special coffees in the world and they are doing it as a motor to strengthen the social, economic and cultural fabric of their communities within a context of harmony and respect for nature.
Many Colombian communities depend on the production of coffee to make a living. However, for many months now, the commodity futures market for coffee, which is the benchmark for the global price of coffee, set and regulated by the New York Stock Exchange, has been set below the costs of production for many coffee producers.
This along climate change continues to generate devastating effects in coffee producing communities including malnutrition, children being forced out of school, worsening healthcare outcomes, destitution of seasonal workers and laborers, increasing migrant caravans to foreign countries and the growing attraction of producing illicit crops such as poppy and coca, which are transformed into heroin and cocaine.
The lucrative business of heroin and cocaine fueled the colombian armed conflict for many years since guerrillas, paramilitaries and drug trafficking groups fiercely battled one another and the colombian state for control of territory and drug supply at the source.
We believe this situation continues to occur because of the increasing disengagement of consumers of coffee in developed countries and coffee producers in developing countries. It has been intentionally structured to be that way. This has led to the fact that coffee producing communities receive a relatively very small share of the total value created in the coffee value chain and remain invisible.
We believe in traceability and transparency along the entire coffee supply chain. We want consumers of coffee to directly connect with the life story of coffee producing communities in Colombia, validate the special characteristics and high quality of coffee and learn about our efforts to support these communities through fair trade prices and precision agriculture technology. It is our fundamental mission that coffee communities thrive and strengthen their social, economic and cultural fabric within a context of peace, harmony and respect for nature.
Peace Farm Coffee was inspired after Colombia ratified a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC in Spanish) guerrillas that ended a 52-year internal conflict, the longest in the Western Hemisphere. A conflict that cost the lives of at least 220,000 colombians, displaced nearly 6 million people, produced thousands of kidnappings and filled rural areas with deadly land mines.
We are here in the field to continue learning about the struggles of these coffee producing communities and to find ways to promote more traceability and transparency in the coffee production system. We believe specialty coffee could become a powerful motor for sustainable development and lasting peace in Colombia. Follow our journey!
Carlos Andres Guzman is an international affairs analyst, development economist, development entrepreneur and founder of Peace Farm Coffee.