By Hannah Gracher, Programme Officer, Mercy Corps

On small farms in Tolima, Colombia, coffee farmers are learning about better ways to grow coffee while tackling poverty in their communities thanks to a project called ‘My Sustainable Coffee Farm’ run by my organisation, Mercy Corps.

For three years Mercy Corps worked with farmers in Colombia to improve their land management and water resources, as well as their nutrition and food security. So far more than 1,152 coffee farming families have learned about the benefits of joining cooperatives and associations, improved coffee production processes, as well as good agricultural and environmental practices.

At Mercy Corps we believe in the power of possibility.  We work in over 40 countries around the world where we partner to put bold solutions into action and build stronger communities from within.  Our work is underpinned by sustainable change so that people have the opportunity to thrive, not just survive.

Nohemy Bonilla is a mother and a coffee farmer who attended Mercy Corps training.  She told us that prior to the training her children Andrea, Angie and Sebastián were not interested working on the coffee farm. However, after attending workshops on growing vegetable gardens and the establishment of small basins with their mother, they now plan to study agronomy and environmental sciences. This not only enables them to support their family business, but also provides them with the opportunity to stay in their community should they choose to.

Alexander Álvarez’s and his family also worked with Mercy Corps to improve their natural resource management—and most importantly, water quality and conservation—to benefit the future productivity and well-being of coffee-farming families in Colombia. With the knowledge gained in Mercy Corps-led trainings, Alexander set up a plant nursery with Bucare tree seedlings to reforest small water sources, which are critical for water quality and distribution. Bucare tree leaves provide excellent compost for coffee plants, Alexander said: “the Bucare trees help a lot during the drought periods, because thanks to this tree we can still grow good quality coffee for which we receive a good price.” Managing and conserving water resources helps to not only improve the quality of drinking water, but also improves coffee crop quality and can result in higher family income.

To hear more about the work Mercy Corps is doing to help build resilient and sustainable coffee farming communities, come along to the Edinburgh Coffee Festival on Saturday 14th October. We will be talking about a recently funded project that is aiming to strengthen the economic empowerment of 1,800 women coffee farmers in Southern Cauca, Colombia.


The Edinburgh Coffee Festival is proud that Mercy Corps will be our partner charity and will receive a share of profits raised by the event.

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