Barista Magazine

OCT-NOV 2017

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 21 of 115

F O A M : N E W S + T R E N D S FORMER FARC CHILD SOLIDERS, AND UNDERCOMPENSATED WOMEN PRODUCERS, BENEFIT FROM ILLY INVESTMENT IN COLOMBIA THE LANDSCAPE THAT SCULPTS Cauca, Colombia's fourth-larg- est coffee-producing department, can thank the Andes for its attributes. Mountainous, lush, and fertile courtesy of volcanic soil, the region's banan- as, avocados, and plantains are as much in demand as its Arabica. This is microlot terroir: Cauca's 95,000 hectares of coffee are owned by 93,000 families whose Arabica fi lls 1.2 million 60-kilo bags a year; that's 16 percent of Colombia's total production. The department, however, was a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) stronghold during Co- lombia's 53-year civil war. Guerrillas hid away in this lofty jungle, growing more fi nancially lucrative coca to fi nance their campaign. Since the peace process began in 2016, however, Cauca's growers are keen to up the ante. Standing right behind them is Illy Caffè. The Italian roaster has purchased Colombian beans for the past two decades, but previous visits were limited to its capital, Bogotá—it was too dangerous to travel to coffee country. Now the country is going through a historic moment, and Illy is increasing its involvement, helping to empower growers by supporting new as well as established projects. Coffee was a con- stant during the confl ict; it's now playing a role in the peace process. Given that Colombia has opened up, Illy—along with coffee drinkers around the world—is putting faces and names to the coffee. The stories behind the beans Illy buys are emerging: landmine victims, women, and former FARC guerrillas have established cooperatives, teaming up for their bite of the cherry. Anna Illy, the roaster's global ambassador to coffee growers, met some of the caucanos (people from Cauca) behind various projects on a visit to the country in July. "I fi rst came to Colombia 20 years ago but it was al- ways impossible to leave Bogotá," she says. "We weren't able—we weren't allowed—to go out into the fi eld. We'd visit the National Federation of Coffee Growers [FNC] who'd show us a beautiful map and point out that we bought coffee from here and here, but we couldn't meet anybody, not for many years." One brand-new project aims to turn former FARC guerrillas cof- fee growers, not only giving them a trade but also the opportunity to reintegrate into society. The three-month training program, supported by Colombia's National Learning Service (Sena) and the FNC, fi nds 30 students—chosen from the three United Nations–controlled demobili- zation zones located around Cauca—started training at Tecnicafé coffee technology park in Popayán in June. A landmark scheme and the fi rst of its kind in the department, Illy's involvement is low profi le but committed: Head agronomist Gian Luca Lalvicini has already led a daylong workshop, while the roaster has agreed to buy Arabica from the program's graduates in the future. A former fi ghter who joined FARC aged 14, apprentice Jhon Benavides says, "It seemed a good idea to enroll on this program as I wanted to learn more about growing coffee. I want the best for my family and for my community. I want Colombia to be different." Cauca isn't just helping reformed guerrillas. The 80 members of Aso- desam co-op, for example, are landmine victims—survivors, rather. Picker Wilmer Galindez tells a horribly ironic tale about his accident. "I used to be a coca-leaf picker, a job which paid well, between 700 and 1,000 Colom- bian pesos a kilo; a kilo of coffee paid 300 pesos. I would earn 90,000 pesos a day picking coca whereas coffee would have paid 35,000 pesos. But after I decided to move on from illicit crops, I had an accident in 2010." Despite losing his right foot, today he's the best picker at Asodesam, and has even crafted his own prosthesis to help him traverse the hilly fi elds. What's most remarkable about Wilmer, and fellow landmine survivors including co-op president Don Adelmo and Marta Cecilia, is their ability to forgive and move forward. "We're all from the countryside and we can all help improve the economy, giving more people jobs," says Don Adelmo. "It's a good idea that these former guerrillas are learning to become cafeteros. We've all made mistakes because we're all human, but the fact that they've taken the decision to lay down their weapons and continue life in peace makes us happy. The whole community can progress and now think of the future, in peace." Besides purchasing from this compelling project, Illy has struck a fi xed arroba (12.5 kg bag) price with Asodesam that includes a $1 USD bonus per arroba that goes directly to the co-op. Along with peacetime stories, female empowerment is another interest for Illy. The FNC estimates that of Cauca's 1.2 million sacks, 30 percent are produced by women-owned farms, but it seems that women, until recently, rarely saw fi nancial gains. María del Carmen Toro heads two cooperatives, Aslicafés and MyCafé, from her 1-hectare farm La Puentecita. Known as la profe, (the teacher), she organizes 3,000 women whose Arabica is bought by Illy, in the town of Piendamó. "Inequality existed between men and women and I wanted the genders to be equal," she says. "We women worked and looked after the children, but our husbands always received the money. So 1,000 of us got together and decided to change that way of life. That was in 2013." Besides motivating so many women, María del Carmen Toro says there have been welcome changes in her village since the peace process began. Looking out across the valley that houses her small farm, she says, "The truth is, [before] you couldn't have visited us here at the farm. The confl ict was intense here: We used to hear bombs going off and [FARC fi ghters] would come here at one in the morning, demanding we prepare them food. But those things don't happen anymore. Life has changed. We can call it peace." —Sorrel Moseley-Williams PHOTOS COURTESY OF PABLO ANDRÉS MOLANO, ILLY CAFFÉ Thirty former FARC guerrillas have embarked on a three-month coff ee-growers' training program aimed at giving them a trade—and a way back into society. Below: Coff ee grower María del Carmen Toro leads 3,000 women as president of two associations, empowering them as cafeteras. 22 barista magazine

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