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After decades of conflict, coffee finally returns to Caquetá

In the remoteness of the Colombian Amazon, farmers are partnering with Nespresso to revive a high-quality coffee culture.

WORDS BY JACK NEIGHBOUR

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

RETURNING TO THE MOUNTAINS

Deep within the Colombian Amazon, dense rainforest and abundant rainfall produce ideal conditions for growing coffee. After a landmark peace agreement in 2016 ended a five-decade-long conflict in the area, expert growers Don Fernando Pedreros Muños (far left) and Don Edgar Otavo Martin (far right) have partnered with the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Programme to make coffee cultivation a more viable way to support their families.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

COFFEE THRIVES IN THE JUNGLE

Shade-loving Arabica coffee trees thrive in higher altitudes and cooler conditions, making Caquetá’s thick, damp, and mountainous jungles natural greenhouses for growing high-quality coffee. While the environment is ideal for cultivating the region’s signature Amazonas Coffee, the rugged terrain and seasonal rains create challenges for growers—especially low coffee plant productivity, no access to modern processing machinery, and a lack of infrastructure to bring coffee to market. Luckily, specialised training programmes are now providing solutions to this.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

A HERITAGE TO BE PROUD OF

Having bought the family farm from his parents around 12 years ago, Don Fernando doesn’t see growing coffee simply as a means to earn a living. It’s his legacy, something he learned from his parents and which he wants to pass on to his own children. Since working with the AAA programme, he’s been able to purchase a bigger farm and is becoming a figure of trust within his community. Other farmers now come to him for advice on joining the programme after seeing the positive effect his higher quality coffee is having on Caquetá’s reputation.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

QUALITY COFFEE MEANS MORE QUALITY TIME

Don Fernando enjoys some well-earned downtime with his family. Since partnering with Nespresso, he’s been receiving ongoing assistance and agricultural training that’s led to increased productivity on his farm, which translates to a higher, steadier income. Knowing that coffee is now a reliable business and a stable source of income, Don Fernando can at last look beyond the day-to-day and plan for a secure future by expanding his farm—safe in the knowledge that he can both support his family and spend more quality time relaxing with his children.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

PASSING ON WHAT’S LEARNED

Just as his parents taught him, Don Fernando knows the intricacies of producing high-grade Arabica. Participating in Nespresso’s AAA Sustainable Quality™ Programme is helping him maintain his family’s rich coffee-growing legacy, and now he can pass down both his traditional techniques and Nespresso’s new sustainable agriculture practices to his children.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

COFFEE’S COMING BACK

Don Edgar is another grower in the region whose family produced Arabica before political unrest in the area led them to make the tough decision to leave their home. During this time the threat of fighting breaking out made cultivating and transporting coffee too insecure a prospect. Even finding enough workers to pick crops was once almost impossible, but now peace in the region has allowed farmers like Don Edgar to return and, through training and trading with Nespresso, rebuild their farms back into viable businesses.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

ROADS IN CAQUETÁ ARE HARD TO COME BY

Don Edgar leads his sure-footed pack mule across a footbridge on the steep and rocky route from his farm to the local coffee cooperative. The region’s mountainous terrain means some farms are located an hour or more from the nearest road, making it difficult for families to transport harvested beans. Mules remain the best way to get their coffee to market, but infrastructure is improving, and the premium price paid for higher quality beans is well worth the trek.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

A BRIGHTER FUTURE AHEAD

For a lot of Caquetá couples, growing coffee defines their way of life. It’s often their primary way of supporting their families, and a lifelong love and heritage they want to be able to pass on to their children. After a turbulent period seemed to almost eradicate this way of life, thankfully, the right support, training, equipment, and ongoing investment in infrastructure are all bolstering farmers’ passion to keep their traditions alive. Over the next few years, it looks like this could help ensure that the world can continue to enjoy their beautiful coffee. More coffee stories here.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENA EFFENDI

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