Colombia Nariño Borderlands
This NGO-led project helps small coffee farmers grow and process, while also improving agronomy and business practices
Partnered with Stumptown
Caturra, Colombia, Castillo, Yellow Maragogype
The project continues to do what it has set out to do in the region. This year, we’ve selected top lots and singled out stellar producers whose coffees are stand-outs on our cupping table.
The Nariño Borderlands Coffee Project was started in 2013 and aims to disrupt cycles of violence and illicit agriculture by building relationships and empowering local farmers to cultivate high quality coffee to drive sustainable revenue to the region. Borderlands plays an active part in teaching agronomy and processing techniques, while also offering business advice. Most of the farmers have very small plots of land and process in their own backyards. The project is undergoing a transitional period where production is becoming more sustainable and self-sufficient.
This year’s larger Borderlands lot comes from producers Nelcy Rocio Villota, Nelsi Julieth Mirama and El Salado association.
For one of our small lot offerings, we singled out the rare and lovely yellow Maragogype variety from producer Corona Zambrano. Zambrano almost pulled up all of her Yellow Maragogype to replace it with a higher yielding variety. Luckily for us, the agronomists from the Borderlands Project asked her to wait until the buyers on the Borderlands advisory council could assess it. Needless to say, we were blown away by the cup quality. It wasn’t here for long but we sure enjoyed it while it lasted.
Nariño has an incredibly dramatic landscape that is perfect for growing coffee. Vibrant green Andean mountains jut out of the clouds; it truly feels like the top of the world. This region has long been coveted for its coffee, but the violence and conflict here kept specialty coffee buyers out. Subsequently, the coffee had never been sorted for quality and was bulked together for large buyers.
We’ve been buying coffee here for the last few years through the Colombia Borderlands project and have seen major improvements in the region and in the exemplary coffee grown and processed here.
The Nariño Borderlands Project is actively involved in helping farmers team up with third-wave coffee roasters like us. Because they can sell the coffee for so much more than before, many farmers are joining in this movement. Formerly displaced farmers are returning to their land, and they are banding together to become a farmer-led community organization.
We’re proud to offer this selection from Nariño Borderlands Coffee Project. As we hoped, we’re already seeing improved coffee quality inspired by the developing Direct Trade relationship with an incentive based program that encourages an emphasis on quality.
Corona Zambrano cultivates her Yellow Maragogype, an extremely rare coffee variety on her farm, La Primavera, in the Linares community in Nariño. When we visited Nariño, we went to her farm, tasted her Yellow Maragogype and knew we had to share it. In addition to cultivating delicious coffee, Corona also provides leadership in the community. She works with the community’s agronomy secondary and high school. She also gives her unique coffee varieties to the school’s test garden.
The Nariño Borderlands Coffee Project began in 2013 as a way to empower local farmers, encourage quality coffee cultivation and improve livelihoods in Nariño through relationships built upon mutual commitment to quality. The project supports small holder farmers with information on best practices of agronomy, processing, business management and savings. Historically, Nariño’s farmers sold everything to two large buyers at a baseline price, with no rewards for quality. This project sets aside quality coffee in separate lots prior to combining the rest of the coffee into a bulk offering. Their system rewards quality with price premiums which encourage quality. Logistics in the area have remained complicated due to illicit agriculture, armed conflict, displacement and mining interests. Due to these factors, developing coffee as a sustainable means to make a living is timely.
Although the project progressed on a planned washing station, bureaucratic concerns slowed it down. The plans for the station, created with students from the local university, have been completed. We’re stoked to see that they intend to include separate tanks to experiment with processing techniques and further innovation. They will also create a raised bed drying system with fans and other innovations.