Jorge

AGE: 24
COMMUNITY: Quinchia, Risaralda, Colombia

Jorge Euclice Suárez Motato is a 26-year-old participant in Coffee Kids in Colombia who has used his new business and barista skills to launch a coffee bar that sells his own label, The Alps, as well as natural honey. When Jorge Suarez arrived at the first Coffee Kids Rural Business Workshop in Summer 2016, he really was not sure what to expect. But he was excited to try something new. Jorge was 24 at the time and he had recently spent 2 years away from his family and out of his community, serving in the Colombian military. Once he had the opportunity to return home he was happy to be back in his hometown of La Celia, Colombia and truly did not want to have to leave again.

Jorge wanted to follow his family in coffee and he had many ideas about what that could look like, but he wasn’t sure where to start. Coffee Kids provided a path for him to develop his own identity as a young entrepreneur in coffee. Jorge took the lessons from the agronomist trainers in Coffee Kids and learned how to processes his coffee in a variety of ways. He also took the skills he learned in networking to find local people who could roast and package his coffee. And then he took his marketing skills to local fairs where he could sell his coffee, eventually opening his own coffee shop where he serves his own coffee and shares different ways to brew coffee with his community

I recently spent a week with Jorge, attending the SCA Avance Conference in Guatemala City and visiting youth businesses in the Trifinio region of Central America. During our travel, Jorge talked about how he used to be very timid, unwilling to speak his mind, and unsure what he could do with his life. But through the course of the workshops he developed self-confidence, found his voice, learned how to dream into the future.

And Jorge is passionate about coffee! Every morning, whether at the hotel or on the road traveling, Jorge found a way to prepare his coffee which he grew and roasted under his label, “The Alps.” During the SCA Conference, there were coffees from 10 regions of Guatemala, and Jorge tried each one, doing his own informal cupping and evaluation of the flavors in each. When we visited the youth committee of UNIOCAFE in Honduras, Jorge immediately jumped into asking questions to understand the work of these youth and also shared his knowledge and experience from Colombia. During a training we attended in El Salvador, Jorge took time to sit with each group and talk with them about their business ideas.

Jorge was selected for this trip after submitting a proposal for how he could use the skills he learned to increase opportunities for other youth in Colombia. The experience culminated with a visit to the headquarters of Peet’s Coffee in Emoryville, California. Through our partnership with Peet’s, Jorge was able to learn about cupping and quality, large-scale roasting, and barista skills in a US coffee shop. The staff at Peet’s describes Jorge as, “focused, passionate, and driven” and “eager and excited” to ask questions, engage with staff, and learn as much as possible.

Through the course of this one year journey, Jorge is now at a place where he realizes his own capability to be a mentor to other youth in his own community, that he can be a leader for his peers in Colombia.

According to Jorge, “one of the best parts about being chosen to work with Coffee Kids is that I can share what I have learned with my friends. I love expanding the Coffee Kids family!” He sees the shop as a path to independence. “In life, we must learn to face our challenges and become self-sufficient. Only once I am independent can I truly serve my community.”

Partners

Coffee Kids is engaging in Risaralda and Valle de Cauca in Colombia with established organizations with strong community involvement that extends beyond their commercial role.

The Need

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 are limited.

The Project

Young farmers 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. Coffee Kids 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.

The Outcome

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.