A worker harvests coffee near the town of Santuario, Risaralda department, Colombia in May. RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
In Costa Rica, where we have been paying attention to the plight of coffee farmers in the last year, there are numerous scientific and sectoral organizations dedicated to assisting with the impact of climate change. Richard Schiffman, who last appeared in our pages nearly a year ago, has this about Colombia’s approach:
Hundreds of Colombia’s small coffee growers have stopped cultivating the bean in the face of low prices and reduced harvests linked to a shifting climate. As farmers struggle, the nation’s scientists are seeking to develop new varieties that will flourish in a changing environment.
Women sort coffee beans at the 44-acre Finca El Ocaso farm, near Salento, Colombia. COURTESY OF FINCA EL OCASO
At first glance, Finca El Ocaso, located in the hills outside Salento, Colombia, could be mistaken for a natural forest: rows of squat Arabica coffee trees are interspersed with plantain, banana, and lime and shaded by towering nogal cafatero trees, whose high canopy hosts flocks of chattering parrots and other birds. The 44-acre coffee plantation has been certified by international organizations for being sustainable, climate-friendly, and fair to its workers.
But Finca El Ocaso is struggling under the weight of intensifying economic pressures.
A coffee weighing station at Finca El Ocaso. Coffee prices have dropped so low that the family-run farm has started hosting tourists to make extra money. COURTESY OF FINCA EL OCASO
“Lots of smaller farms near us have gone out of business,” said farmer Gustavo Patiño. “It is no longer sustainable to have a medium-size farm that pays high taxes and expensive production costs, when in the end they may get paid less for their coffee than their expenses.”
Several years ago, in an effort to keep the plantation afloat, Patiño’s eldest daughter, Carolina, opened the farm to foreign and Colombian tourists. The plantation now attracts more than 1,000 visitors a year. “Our farm can only survive because we offer tours and sell our coffee to the tourists,” Patiño said.
In the last 18 months, Colombia has lost nearly 100,000 acres of coffee plantations, more than 4 percent of the land under coffee cultivation, according to a statement issued last week by Colombia’s National Federation of Coffee Growers (Fedecafé). Continue reading