Brewing Fresh Opportunity in Colombia

Liliana (right) and her husband are working with a FarmerLink agent to improve their coffee farm and earn more money for their family.

Liliana is a patient woman. It's the only way to be a successful coffee farmer. 

It takes new coffee trees two years to fully mature — and they flower only twice per year (one main harvest and a smaller one). Then there’s a race against time to pick and process the coffee cherries before they spoil. Every detail is important to Liliana because sick trees or spoiled cherries mean less money and more hardship for her family. 

Until last January, processing those cherries was one of her biggest problems.

"Previously, we had a wet mill that was in very bad shape," she explained. "The mill shared space with other spaces of the house and it was very difficult to work there, and insecure for the children."

In Colombia, most of the coffee is grown by small-scale farmers who typically use wet mills to separate the skin and pulp of the cherries from the beans. Depending on the size of the mill, a farmer can process 2,400 to 6,000 pounds of coffee per day. Each cherry has two beans and you’d need about 120 beans for an 8 oz. cup of coffee. 

Though Liliana has been a member of Cooperativa de los Andes, a local coffee cooperative, since 2011 she didn’t approach them for help until she spoke to Maria Alejandra Alvarez, a field agent trained through Grameen Foundation's FarmerLink program in Colombia. As part of the program, trained agents visit members of Andes to assess their farms and develop tailored farm management plans to improve their production and income. 

Through FarmerLink, Grameen Foundation and partners Starbucks, the Inter-American Development Bank, Coex and Andes are helping 2,000 smallholder farmers like Liliana in the Antioquia and Choco regions earn more from their farms. 

Once Maria gave her the evaluation, Liliana knew she had to make changes quickly. She requested her first loan of 4 million Colombian pesos from Andes (U.S.$1400) to get a new wet mill.

"There weren't too many requirements for the loan, there is a long repayment period and interests are not high, she said. "This greatly improves the conditions in which we work. The wet mill will be wide and more comfortable to wash and store the coffee in a more organized way."

Liliana has already seen early results in her April harvest and can't wait for the main harvest in August. She expects to process 30 percent more cherries with the new mill - a great boost for family’s income.