Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks announced this week that is has expanded its program to help to support coffee farmers in Colombia with loans, technical training, and better agricultural technology.
The initiatives, which extend and increase efforts underway since at least 2013, will invest nearly $5 million USD that is intended to benefit rural growers. Specifically, the company will aim toward supporting women and those located in historical conflict regions where the national government is pushing crop-substitution programs that allow farmers to replace coca fields with legal alternatives.
Starbucks has partnered with the Inter-American Developmental Bank (IDB) on a $4 million USD loan project that will be directed toward 2,000 small-scale framers, most of whom will be women, said the company. The bulk of the loans are expected to be provided to farmers connected to the Medellín-based women-run co-op Cooperativa de Caficultores de Andes (Cooperandes).
“The loans will help them develop their coffee farms to enhance quality and coffee yields,” said Starbucks in a statement. “Since many don’t have land rights, they don’t have the collateral to get a traditional loan.”
Photo: Howard Schultz, executive chairman and former CEO of Starbucks, came to Bogotá for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the coffee giant’s first location in Colombia. (Credit: Starbucks)
This week, Starbucks, which has been expanding with new coffee shops since first entering Colombia in 2014, also announced that it will extend its partnership in Colombian with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The pledged funds, an additional $519,000 USD on top of an earlier $1.5 million USD investment as reported by Daily Coffee News, will be used to train 1,000 farmers in post-conflict zones about agriculture and climate resiliency. One key goal is to provide growers with access to better technology.
“To say, ‘We are going to quit growing coca leaves and produce coffee’ — that’s huge,” said Alfredo Nuno, head of the Starbucks Farmer Support Center in Manizales, in a statement. “They will gain in their own tranquility and self-esteem and won’t be bound to blackmail and pressure.”
Last December, the Colombian government finalized a peace deal with the nation’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), to end a conflict that has killed more than 260,000 and displaced some seven million Colombians over the past half-century.
While public officials and law enforcement still lack control over a large swaths of rural Colombia, many are optimistic that the demobilization of the nation’s largest armed faction will allow for advances in agriculture and coffee production that have been slow to develop due to violence, drug trafficking, and instability.
Nuno said that “there are some areas where you can see coffee growing was set back 50 years … Our job is to help them produce to the capacity of their plot of land.”