No 27

Organic Coffee, a Flagship and Differentiated Product of the Sierra Nevada

September, 2015

What's Happening

Organic Coffee, a Flagship and Differentiated Product of the Sierra Nevada

By ancestral tradition, and harmoniously living with Mother Nature, the indigenous communities of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta do not use chemicals for coffee growing, something that markets increasingly value, besides its unique cup attributes.


Oliveiro Villafana, an arhuaco native of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, is part of the 778 coffee growers, mostly indigenous and farmers, who produce coffee under strictly organic protocols and are part of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) select offer of organic coffees.

As Oliveiro himself explains, organic coffee comes from an ancient tradition that has become their way of life, achieving a balanced production based on rational use of natural resources and ensuring a stable agricultural production in the long term.

“We the indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada (Snow-Capped Mountain Range) have a philosophy: we don’t apply synthetic products to coffee and grow it naturally. In our daily life we have the mission of living in harmony with Mother Nature and all living beings; for this reason we do not use any chemical that may affect those living beings around us. On the other hand we see that organic coffee has become a fashion, but for us it is not a fashion, it’s something that we naturally grow as a cultural tradition, because our ancestors have taught us so,” he explains.

Thanks to this, organic coffee from the Sierra Nevada has become a Colombian reference worldwide. It belongs to the category of specialty coffees and has a growing demand by specialized buyers from such countries as Japan, South Korea, the United States and Germany, which have an increasing organic culture and find differential and unique attributes in this coffee in terms of organic production, since it combines three essential factors such as origin, production conditions and differentiated cup.

It is worth noting that the FNC has been a key piece to build and create long-term commercial relationships between communities that grow organic coffee, customers and consumers, focusing on self-sustainable economic development and cultural strengthening of producers, which has translated into higher incomes and well-being for themselves and their families.

“We market our coffee clearly thinking that it’s a service to society and this gives us an added value; buyers are aware of what we are producing, a totally organic coffee, and of the fact that behind every coffee crop, there is a history. By explaining all this, buying countries really understand what is an organic product and the support they give, through their purchase, to indigenous communities, and of course to improvement of each producer’s quality of life,” Villafana underlines.

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In addition, the programs of organic and specialty coffees from the Sierra Nevada, leveraged by the FNC through Departmental Coffee Growers Committees, the Extension Service and the Commercial Office, have promoted and encouraged associativity, involving different indigenous ethnic groups and small coffee growers, to improve their living conditions and look for ways to increase coffee production.

At the same time, the associations are highly committed to preservation of the Sierra Nevada, growing coffee under different schemes of sustainable production that involve certification and/or verification processes (indispensable when exporting) such as Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, 4C, UTZ and FLO (organic). The latter for example promotes fair trade and improves access to markets and trade conditions of small coffee growers.

“Coffee is the only product that enables us to have a stable economy. Coffee has become the salary of indigenous people in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.”
Oliveiro Villafana

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, an ancestral land producing specialty coffee
The coffee-growing departments of Magdalena, Cesar and La Guajira, in Northern Colombia, encompass this imposing mountain system, considered the highest coastal mountain range in the world, with a height of 5,775 masl, and recognized by the Unesco as a world heritage site and biosphere reserve.
Thanks to production conditions, which exclusively depend on climatic factors, the Sierra Nevada coffee is a differentiated and origin product. It has pronounced aroma, high body, good bean size, minimum acidity and ancestral growing. There is a single harvest per year, between October and December, which gives it a character of limited edition, taking into account that the rest of the country has two harvest seasons.

You are invited to learn more about our coffee family and our products, visiting the COLOMBIAN COFFEE INSIDER sections on the top of this page.