working with independent small farmers in Colombia

“It is excellent. We learn from them, they learn from us,
and we solve our questions together”
Nancy Garces, a leader of the Las Aradas community and part of the Fair Trade small-scale farmer committee in Nariño, on her experience working with the other communities

Independent Small coffee farmers

Nancy Garces (in purple) with other small-scale farmers from Las Aradas, laughing about who will look better in the picture

Close to the Doña Juana volcano in Nariño, Colombia, 100 small-scale farmers in the municipality of Tablon de Gomez are working together for the first time to obtain Fair Trade certification.   Farmers from very small communities called “veredas” are forming farmer associations.  “Veredas” are very small towns that group families within a municipality.  I visited one of these veredas last month, Las Aradas, formed by 30 families who reside far down the hill, away from the road.

After walking down the very steep hill from the road, we were received by several of the farmers and their families.

Las Aradas vereda from the road

Many of the farmers in Las Aradas used to be farm workers and traveled to other regions in Colombia (Armenia and Risaralda, among others) to work in the coffee harvest.  Eventually they either inherited some land and/or were able to buy land so they now grow coffee (1 to 5 acres each).  Many of the farmers have local gardens where they grow vegetables and grains for local consumption but coffee is what really brings income to the farms.

independent small-scale coffee farmers

Small-scale farmers from Las Aradas meet with the technician supporting their future participation in Fair Trade

We discussed Fair Trade, especially the future Fair Trade premium and the Fair Trade farmers committee.  It would not be feasible for this community to get certified by itself because of auditing costs and the cost of implementing the standards (too expensive per person at this level).  Farmers in Las Aradas are accompanying farmers from 3 other veredas in this municipality (Tablon de Gomez) and other 4 communities in another region in Nariño joining Fair Trade.  In this way, several communities could join Fair Trade together.  They are all in the process of democratically electing their representatives to a Fair Trade committee that will implement community projects based on the farmers needs.   The idea is that the farmers at the very local level will bring their needs and ideas to the farmer committee to implement projects in each community.

They are also creating farmer associations as part of organizing themselves. These farmer associations are the right scale and size for these farmers: at their local level (veredas) and include farmers from their communities (20-50 farmers, depending on the vereda).  The idea is not to impose a specific structure that might not work here, but to support the farmers to find the right organizational structure for their communities. With this work, we are hoping to bring the benefits of Fair Trade to these independent small-scale farmers while supporting their journey in creating farmer organizations.

With the pineapple I was graciously given by the farmers before my trek back up the hill

Read more about the small-scale farmers in Narino on this post:

3 thoughts

  1. Hello Miguel:

    I have read your comments and I find very interesting what you do. I’m impressed with what you’ve done in the eastern mountains of Nariño, where the trade winds have a major impact on the quality of coffee. I commented that I have been studying this issue since 1971 and I have lots and lots of information to share. I live at the Location of Rosaflorida, a village which is located just across the board Tablón de Gomez. My email is: and my Ph. 57-2-311-7192336 Cel, where I will be at your service. Hernando Gutierrrez.

    • Thanks, Hernando. It is always great meeting people close to the region where we are working. I look forward to learning more from your experience and knowledge of the region so that could help us to a better work in the future and maximize the benefits for the small-scale farmers in the region. I just sent you an email and I look forward to staying in touch.

  2. Pingback: Top 5 experiences of 2012 | coffee gente – the people in coffee

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