No 13

Peace, an Integral Process for Coffee Zones

August, 2013

What's behind Colombian Coffee

Peace, an Integral Process for Coffee Zones

International cooperating partners recognize the integral approach and the institutional soundness of the FNC, what guarantees the success of peace projects.

There are many peace projects. However, finding those that can count on a solid institution behind them, with an integral approach, such as those offered by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), is much rarer. This is why both insiders and outsiders recognize that the peace projects carried out by the FNC, such as Huellas de Paz (Footprints of Peace) or Colombia Cafetera Sostenible (Sustainable Coffee-Growing Colombia), have their continuity and sustainability guaranteed.

Technical assistance, permanent support and the commercialization channels of the FNC, among other institutional aspects, are key factors for success.

“The Federation can think as a commercial and social agent of its projects. There are few institutions with those two features, what facilitates finding allies from the public and private sector,” said Joel Brounen, commercial official at the Embassy of Holland in Bogota.

The Dutch Embassy was the main international donor for the project “Sustainable Coffee-Growing Colombia” (CCS), a public-private alliance for the pacific coexistence and rural sustainable development, which has benefitted more than 600 coffee growing families from five different municipalities in the Serrania del Perija, in the department of Cesar.

The families who have received benefits had been affected and even displaced by violence. However, thanks to the project led by the FNC and the Cesar-Guajira Departmental Committee of Coffee Growers, the families were able to return to their farms, start from scratch and rebuild a sustainable life project in the region, based on coffee.

With an investment of 9 billion pesos (USD 4.7 million), CCS also counted on the cooperation of the Douwe Egberts Foundation and Solidaridad Internacional (International Solidarity), as well as resources from the FNC, Finagro and the Government of Cesar, which aided the initiative with important additional resources.

“In the projects it carries out, the Federation is capable of organizing the whole chain, from the producer to the final consumer. It is what distinguishes this project of peace from others: it involves the different actors and besides it integrates the whole chain. That is a key in order to have success in the long term,” Brounen noted.

“In the end, you can help producers, but if there’s no market for their products, they will fall again. We did this with the vision of reaching international markets and it was achieved with a specialty coffee,” he added.

With five components of integral development for the benefitted families, one of the achievements of CCS has been the certification of 347 farms with the sustainable UTZ  seal, producing the specialty coffee Serrania del Perija, emblem of this project.

Brounen considers that the projects of the FNC are founded in a real commercial demand from which the social part can be constructed and reconstructed.

“Some projects are more based on the social aspect, but they forget a little bit about the commercial part, which works as long as there are resources, but when there are no resources, they die. Thanks to the commercial support, projects such as CCS can survive,” he pointed out.

It is very clear to Brounen that peace in Colombia requires an integral and inter-institutional effort by different players, including Armed Forces, local, regional and national authorities, and for this purpose, the FNC “is a great articulator.”

Don Jansen, project manager for the Douwe Egberts Foundation, agreed in indicating that thanks to its commercialization channels, “with the FNC there is life after the project. The FNC will follow, survive and accompany the beneficiaries. The things we have tried to improve are going to endure,” Jansen highlighted.

Don Jansen, project manager for the Douwe Egberts Foundation

“A solid institution like the FNC ensures the sustainability of the project in the future. The productivity of a farmer can be improved. However, if he or she does not have anywhere to sell his or her product, it is going to be very difficult to succeed. We have seen it in other countries,” he noted.

“In Colombia, coffee growers receive a higher price than is usually seen in the world market – not even mentioning some specialty coffees of very high quality – and this is thanks to the FNC, which controls the quality of coffee exports,” he pointed out.

William Vinck, from Douwe Egberts as well, sees the FNC as the ideal partner for this type of peace projects, precisely because of its institutional quality. “I knew that the right partner for this was the FNC, for the institution it is, for its knowledge of coffee, for the amount of technicians it has,” Vinck said. “All this, without a FNC, would be impossible. It is a shame that its services are not exported, because it would allow to succeed in other projects around the world.”

The commitment and sense of belonging of the FNC to the people it represents, the coffee growers, is another factor of success. “In the end the FNC wants what’s the best for its producers, it is not going to take advantage of them, on the contrary, it is going to give their product value and will teach them to value it,” Vinck noted.

Within the different aspects of the coffee institutions that guarantee this type of projects, Benjamin Pardo, Coordinator of International Cooperation at the FNC, highlighted the Extension Service, which provides permanent and updated support to the coffee grower, and all the chain of commercialization. “Through the cooperatives, the grower can sell his or her product in a close location, with fair conditions and at the best price in the market,” he noted.

“This has favored the international cooperation because coffee growers are not alone after the projects, but there is this whole institutional support to which they belong for the sole fact of being coffee growers,” he concluded.

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