Coffee farming is a major economic driver in Colombia. In fact, its coffee exports are considered to be among the best in the world. A long history with coffee farming has allowed them to continuously improve their coffee-growing traditions and hone their craft to perfection. Thus, it is no longer surprising that coffee has become associated with Colombia’s national identity.
Coffee did not originate from Colombia, though. You can read this guide to learn about its humble beginnings in another continent.
Colombia rose to coffee farming fame because it has the right topography and climate to be a worthy contender in the field of coffee production. As a result, it places third in the world’s rankings of coffee exporters, with almost 12 million coffee sacks exported annually.
Colombian Coffee Farmers
Most coffee growers in Colombia live in farms that aren’t larger than 2 hectares (5 acres). The small size of their coffee plots has allowed many growers to keep their business focused and family-oriented. In most occasions, the harvesting and post-harvesting processes are performed by the growers themselves. This further reinforces the special commitment that they have to produce the best coffee possible.
What Does it Mean to be Sustainable?
According to the UN Brundtland Commission, to be sustainable is to be able to meet the present time’s needs without affecting the future generation’s capacity to meet their needs. The concept itself may sound simple in theory, but executing a sustainability plan in practice may prove to be much more complex.
For instance, we have to ask: what needs are we talking about? Does the present generation have the same needs as the future generation? Who exactly is the future generation? Is there a chance that this future generation already refers to this one?
At its core, the goal of sustainability is to find a solution that works for the good of everyone and everything involved. The three pillars of sustainability are: economic, social, and environmental development. Thus, sustainable coffee farming seeks to use renewable resources as much as possible. It also aims to reduce pollution, maintain and improve the environment, and provide adequate care for workers.
Sustainability of Colombian Coffee Farming
More than 50% of Colombia’s municipalities are coffee producers, and almost 4 million people rely on it for their income. Most growers are smallholder farmers that run it as a family business. Indeed, coffee plays an important role in the lives of these families, so sustainability is something that they must keep in mind. However, this is a vital topic not only for the producers. It is also for their communities and the whole country as well.
Sustainable coffee farming practices include, but are not limited to:
- Reusing coffee husks as heating fuel instead of cutting down eucalyptus trees
- Filtering water from fermentation tanks to be used for coffee irrigation
- Spreading organic matter and fertilizers under and between the coffee trees
- Providing educational programs, medical care, as well as decent working conditions and wages for employees
According to the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), at least 42% of Colombian coffee farms have certifications for sustainable farming practices. Café de Colombia wishes to boost those numbers. The problem is, while many coffee farmers have sustainable practices, they are unable to apply for certification. This is due to them not having the resources and financial means to do so.
Sustainability Starts in the Community
According to a study made by agronomist Peter Baker, the mountainous regions of Colombia are warming by 0.3 ºC (0.5 ºF) every decade. This is where the Colombian coffee farms are.
Currently, the FNC is devising a voluntary Code of Conduct with the help of notable coffee institutions and coffee experts. They will also hold forums with coffee growers, agricultural experts and educators, sustainability experts, and coffee exporters. With the involvement of these sectors, they hope to create the grand sustainability plan that will help Colombian growers preserve their coffee farms. Especially now when climate change is significantly affecting coffee production in the 21st century.
The Code of Conduct and Its Role
Once developed, the Code of Conduct shall serve as Colombia’s standard for environmental, economic, and social sustainability. This will cover:
- Environmental: Management of natural resources and sustainable agronomics
- Economic: Management of cost production, productivity, and income
- Social: Rural education, health insurance, and social investment
Ultimately, the goal of the Code of Conduct is to educate farmers so they can meet the market’s demands, preserve the income-generating power of their livelihood, and preserve the environment––all at the same time.
Climate change is quickly becoming a huge contributing factor to the extinction of many coffee species in the world.Given this, FNC and Café de Colombia are stepping up to ensure that Colombia maintains its place in the field of coffee exporting by adhering to sustainable coffee farming practices.