- Altitude: 1400 - 2000 meters
- Varieties: Typica, Bourbon, Colombiana
- Process: Dry fermentation, washed, raised bed drying
- Established in 1992
- Memberhsip: 550 producers
- Region: Located in the Cordillera Central around the mountains of the state of Cauca, western and southern Colombia
The Paez (who also call themselves Nasa, or "the people") is the largest indigenous group in Colombia. Their land is in the Cordillera Central – centered around the mountains of the Cauca departamento (state). Fondo Paez was founded in 1992, with the primary goal of recuperating traditional agricultural knowledge and indigenous culture which had been buried by centuries of conflict and oppression. Paez community leaders teamed up with Fundacion Colombia Nuestra, a Colombian-based non-profit, to start the "Recovering Agricultural Knowledge" program. The main cash crop of this region is still coffee, and, to ensure a stable income for their members, Fondo Paez organized community based coffee cooperatives.
Surprisingly, Fair Trade is still not widespread in Colombia. And even though Fondo Paez had been operating with Fair Trade practices, they did not receive their official FLO certification until 2005. Cooperative Coffees was instrumental in demonstrating to FLO (Fair Trade certifier in Europe) that a Fair Trade market existed in the U.S. for Fondo Paez coffee. They currently process, market, and export their coffee through the Federation, but are completely independent in their internal decision-making process. They are governed democratically and are extraordinarily well organized. They have been recently incorporated as an association in Colombia with its own legal identity.
The organization provides technical assistance for quality control and organic production to its cooperative members. Fondo Paez then works with these primary cooperatives to collect coffee and transport it to a nearby beneficio (coffee mill) to be processed. The cooperative retains ownership of the coffee until it reaches the port. The coffee farmers are equal owners in the organization and receive not only the social benefits provided by Fondo Paez, but also retain a much higher percentage of coffee profits.
Fondo Paez is completely committed to the self-sufficiency of their people and have a holistic approach to farming. This is most evident on their farms. Coffee is only one of many crops that are incorporated into a diverse agro-forestry system. Food crops for their own consumption, feed crops for the farm animals, and nitrogen fixing plants for the soil are given equal importance to their cash crops: coffee, sisal, beans, and different tropical fruits.
The members of Fondo Paez have created a sustainable vision for their indigenous communities. This vision is remarkable in and of itself, but the work and successes of this organization are truly extraordinary when viewed within the context of Colombian politics and globalization. From Spanish conquest centuries ago to the armed conflict raging in their territory for the past 40 years, the Paez people have struggled for their lives, their land, and their right to self-determination.
- Altitude: 1300 - 2000 meters
- Variety: Colombiana (similar to Caturra)
- Established in 1994
- Memberhsip: 270 families
- Region: Located in the municipality of Ocamonte, Santander in northern Colombia
Founded in 1994, APCO is a well organized group of 270 farming families, most of whom live in in the municipality of Ocamonte in the state of Santander. This area is considered one of the most peaceful coffee growing regions in Colombia. Visitors are warmly welcomed to this region which is also known for it's striking physical beauty and a budding eco and adventure tourism industry.
APCO decided to change exporters and left EXPOCAFE in favor of the specialty division of the Federacion Nacional de Colombia (FNC). So far, they are pleased with this decision and they mentioned the fact that they were meeting a buyer of their coffee at this meeting as an example of the improvements they see in exporting through the FNC. Only one person in the meeting of about 15 leaders could remember meeting a buyer of their coffee. They have been exporting since 1997 but they have not known to whom they were exporting.
About half of the members have been certified – and many others are beginning the transition. This is a difficult time to convince farmers to convert to organic because the market price is high and the organic premium represents a lesser overall premium. But the combination of a this group's general desire to grow organically along with their reputation for organization seems to be what holds the group together.
The harvest begins at lower altitudes of 1,200 meters in September and continues up the mountains New warehouse in Ocamonte reaching coffee growing at 1,700 meters in January. The export season is from November to March. The trees are typically picked at least three times. Most coffee is Colombiana which is a variety similar to Caturra.
Among the larger community projects that were constructed with fair trade premium are three bridges and a portion of a school. The fair trade committee – which has existed for many years – makes recommendations to the group for annual projects then trains the trainers for each communities on how to carry out the project. Past projects include kitchen renovations for homes, chicken projects to add income to the family from the sale of eggs, group cow purchases, and seed distribution projects.
Cooperative Coffees is thrilled to have APCO as a trading partner and looks forward to working with the coop to bring yet another delicious Colombian coffee to our roasters!
Please follow the links to puchase Colombian coffee:
Berry and wine notes with a rich creamy body and sweet acidity
Ocamonte - Sorry, this coffee is currently unavailable
A smooth and balanced coffee with light acidity. Look for hints of chocolate and caramel.
* photos courtesy of Cooperative coffees - http://www.coopcoffees.com