Coffee Kids is working with two organizations in the region of Risaralda in Colombia – AgroSolidaria in La Celia, Risaralda, and APECAFEQ (Asociación de Pequeños Cafeteros de Quinchia) in Quinchia, Risaralda. Both are established organizations with strong community involvement that extends beyond their commercial role.
Young farmers in the coffee-growing regions of Risaralda have had particularly difficult challenges with climate change. After prolonged rains five years ago during “La Niña,” the region has been hit by a severe “El Niño” drought. The dry spell has severely reduced productivity, leaving a heavy credit burden on many families. It is especially hard for young farmers who typically have less land to continue to support their families with their family farming business.
The challenging conditions over the past years have sparked many ideas and innovations among young coffee farmers: strategies for crop and income diversification were implemented with new products and services, waste has been upcycled to produce biogas, and young farmers focus much more on coffee quality to get better returns. Despite being very innovative, the possibilities to exchange, discuss, and improve ideas as well as access to finance for ito put ideas into reality are limited.
Young farmers in AgroSolidaria have seen the success of working with an entrepreneurial spirit and have voiced the desire to strengthen the structure of their engagement. Young men and women in the communities that the organization serves are being brought together to form groups that are being supported in defining their vision for the communities’ future. While they will learn about the role of the farmer organization as hubs for social development and the link to business, the Coffee Kids project is providing entrepreneurial training, seed capital for business ideas, and links to mentors to help businesses that are formed or strengthened to prosper. Savings groups or revolving funds will also be facilitated so that the investment in innovation can continue for other young people in the community.
Young farmers working together, innovating, and jointly administering funds to invest in rural small businesses within their communities will provide social cohesion and inter-generational exchange. It will also create an incentive for youth to take a broader role on their family farms, or to take on farming as a vocation.