Sometimes everything comes together at the right moment. For years, we have been working with the Borderlands Project in Nariño, Colombia, to unite farmers and improve market access in a place characterized by staunch independence and regional conflict. This year, historic peace agreements were achieved in Colombia, and growers in Nariño are forging new partnerships to process and market their exceptional coffees. There’s no better moment than right now to celebrate the success of the Borderlands Project and brew some of the best coffees from the region. This coffee combines harvest lots from two recently-formed farmer associations and has an impeccable sweetness, bearing notes of dark fruit and brown sugar.
Colombia is a country that has experienced more than five decades of conflict. Guerrilla groups have been fighting with the government for the achievement of social justice through communist ideals. As a consequence, many people have died and millions of families have been displaced. Rural areas have suffered most.
Thus, beyond geography, this political climate is part of the story of Colombian coffee. It's altered the way smallholder farmers interact with the coffee supply chain, and how we as a company have approached sourcing coffees from Colombia.
It's long been a well-known secret among coffee professionals that the region of Nariño produces the best coffees in Colombia. Yet, unlike Colombia's other coffee-growing regions, no small-scale specialty market existed. Farmers sold their coffees to two exporters working on the behalf of two large buyers paying minimum market prices. Furthermore, Nariño also had the reputation of being difficult to work in, due to heavy guerrilla activity and the independence and disaggregation of over 40,000 small farmers.
The Borderlands Project changed that. The Project was initiated by the global nonprofit Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Five years ago, they introduced us to farmers in Nariño and enlisted our advisory help—in setting up a new supply chain. In a short span of time, the Project has helped farmers successfully build a new business model of cultivating, selecting, and selling quality-differentiated coffees. For the first time, farmers are aware of the quality of their coffees and are being paid commensurate prices. Every year since, these associations of farmers are finding ways to improve the quality of the coffee and the sustainability of their farms, something there was little incentive to do previously. Also every year, we've purchased more coffee in order to support these growing associations. As the project comes to an end and farmers ready themselves to assume complete control over their supply chain, we take this opportunity to celebrate success of the project and the hard work of the people involved with the limited release Borderlands blend.
After many years of negotiation, last summer, Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, announced an agreement had been reached that would end civil conflict between guerrilla groups and the government. The opportunity of peace opened up certain areas of rural Colombia for visitation, areas that were previously deemed unsafe. The Borderlands Project was the first time these farmers had met a coffee buyer, and this past September was the first time their coffee buyer had ever been able to see their farms.
The country that experienced the effects of so much conflict was divided on wanting peace and believing that the agreement was too soft on war criminals, and the original deal was narrowly defeated in a popular vote. Rather than abandon the effort, stakeholders doubled down on their conversations and found compromises in order to move forward. In a time when peace seems rare, the agreement will change the lives of millions of Colombians. In the last five years, the Borderlands Project has changed the way coffee is grown and sold in Nariño, having a profound influence on the lives of farmers and the future of coffee and the potential for coffee excellence there. CRS will soon be expanding The Borderlands Project to other coffee-growing communities in need globally.