'A coffee for peace': The seed that gave rise to “Café de La Esperanza” in Cauca, Colombia

30 May 2018

'A coffee for peace': The seed that gave rise to “Café de La Esperanza” in Cauca, Colombia

Former Farc EP combatants will sell their coffee production to the Italian company Illycaffe, which assured a fixed price and the purchase of at least 100,000 kilos of parchment coffee.


Illycaffe, one of the six most representative multinationals of the coffee market in the world, now has among its suppliers 650 Farc ex -combatants. The iconic Italian brand agreed, last Friday, in Popayán, Cauca, to buy all the production of the Farc ex-combatants located at the Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration - TATR, in the municipalities of Buenos Aires, Caldono and Miranda as well as the coffee production of ex combatants located in Algeria and Cajibío.

To start, the company will buy 100,000 kilos of parchment coffee, guaranteeing a minimum price of $25 dollars per arroba of coffee, regardless of the fluctuations that the grain may have on the New York Stock Exchange.

This was specified in the agreement that was formalized on May 18 in an event where participated the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, the Committee of Cauca Coffee Growers -ASCAFE, the Government of Cauca, the Agency for Reintegration-ARN, the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia and the world president of IllyCaffe, Andrea Illy, who came to Popayán to give his support to the former guerrillas: "This agreement implies trusting directly in you, the ex-combatants, their families and the communities, because we have the certainty of your capacity to produce coffee with the highest quality standards".

How do the former Farc combatants get the chance to export coffee to Europe? How this agricultural flagship product of Colombia, pillar of the industry and factor of transformation of their rural communities will become the engine to the economic reintegration for the ex-combatants and their families in Cauca?


“Café de La Esperanza”

The story began in 2017 at the current Territorial Area for Training and Reintegration of La Elvira, located in Buenos Aires (Cauca), where they began to talk insistently about the cultivation of coffee. The possibility of marketing a product with a purchase guarantee suited the interests of various ex-combatants, who were looking for a productive project that would allow a long-term sustainability. At first, about 120 people expressed their interest in joining this dream.

In the beginning there were adversities such as access to land and limited resources and lack of technical knowledge, but the obstacles were drawn one by one, until the first "Café La Esperanza" bag was sold with its symbolic slogan "A Coffee for Peace".

The first coffee exhibition that ex-combatants attended was held on March at EXPOCAUCA 2018, the most important industrial and commercial fair in the department. The event was the showcase for visitors from all over Colombia to try the “Café de La Esperanza” and talk directly with the ex-guerrillas involve in the initiative.

The dedicate and constant work of ECOMUN ex combatants’ cooperative members, harvest more achievements after this event. The establishment of the Coffee Technical Table with the support of ASCAFE, the Government of Cauca and Paso Colombia, will allow for growth the initiative beyond La Elvira’s TATR. The historic commercial agreement with the multinational coffee maker IllyCafe, will support the economic and technical assistance necessary to benefit the medium and long-term dream of the ex-combatants, their families, and the surrounding coffee producing communities.


“Café del Común”, a red for peace

"The Peace Process in Colombia continues to be a beacon of hope for the world. Experiences and agreements like this confirms that there are reasons to continue believing and working for it", said Alessandro Preti, Chief of Reintegration at the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.

During the event, Preti had the opportunity to convene the representatives of private companies in Colombia to bet directly and decisively on the process of economic reintegration. The Italian firm also sent an invitation message to companies around the world: "This symbolic moment is presented as an invitation to entrepreneurs to believe in the opportunities offered by the current peace process”.

“Café La Esperanza” now renamed “Café del Común” to include all the members that will joint this initiative, expects to have by 2019 about 500 hectares of cultivated coffee by ex-combatants. In addition to the parcels belonging to its partners in the local communities. Of course, an element that will remain unchanged throughout the project is its slogan: "A Coffee for Peace”.

Daniel Sandoval, Public Information Officer - Regional Popayán.
UN Verification Mission in Colombia.