For Mélida Montero, coffee is more than a drink. It’s a way of life. “I have always grown coffee; my parents and grandparents always grew coffee. I raised my children on coffee. Coffee is in my roots; this is what I’ve been given in life”.
Ms. Montero lives in El Tambo, Cauca, a region of Colombia that was particularly affected by the conflict, up until the signing of the August 2016 Peace Agreement. Before then, local communities, especially women, struggled to create steady sources of income for their households.
Rebuilding the economies of these regions was a key part of that Agreement, and the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) – the UN’s financial instrument of first resort to sustain peace in countries at risk or affected by violent conflict – financed an innovative, one-of-a-kind initiative through the Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Sustaining Peace in Colombia, in 2018.
The tenacity of the ‘50 Amigas’
As a result, 50 women, all heads of households and coffee producers in El Tambo, have been empowered to start their business and get direct access to promote their coffee internationally.
Trained in marketing and equipped with the technical knowledge in organic coffee production, these women coffee growers developed their own brand of organic roasted coffee, ‘50 Amigas – Valiant collective’, representing the rich history of the Cauca mountains and the tenacity of its women. The small-scale coffee production of their brand has helped them to significantly improve their incomes.
“I’ve been able to give my children everything because of coffee. We’re not rich, but we always have food. And I can support other family members when they have a need,” says Ms. Montero, who is happy to be of the 50 Amigas.
‘We are fighters. We don’t give up’
“We take care of the planet and our own farm. That makes me feel so proud”, says Argenis Rosas, another member of the collective. “I’m teaching my children to take care of the environment, too. I like what I do. We’re working on using solar energy on the farm, and we compost”.
With the use of an online digital platform, the entire coffee production process is 100 percent traceable and transparent. The platform also helps link the women producers to the U.S. market, and, eventually, other markets throughout the world.
“These 50 Amigas, we are fighters. We don’t give up. The UN is helping me to fulfil my dreams. Thank you for believing in us”, says Ms. Rosas.