Helping local farmers grow biodiversity-friendly conservation coffee – and boost their income – is just what CI, Starbucks, the Colombian Coffee Federation and their alliance partners are doing. In March 2003, Starbucks Coffee Company introduced Conservation Colombia™ to customers worldwide in its retail and online outlets. Like Starbucks Organic Shade Grown Mexico™ coffee, introduced in 1999, Conservation Colombia is the result of a longstanding partnership
between CI and Starbucks that aims to raise farmer income and gain their support for conservation.
Colombian farmers grow conservation coffee in the high-elevation cloud forests
of the Andes
, along the borders of the proposed 387,000-acre Serrania de Los Paraguas nature reserve and 64,000-acre Tatamá National Park. The diverse region shelters over 230 species
of birds, including the exotic emerald toucan, and 355 species of butterflies. It also provides habitat for pumas, monkeys – brown-headed spider, howler and capuchin – as well as endangered animals such as the spectacled bear.
The Conservation Colombia coffee project integrates several key elements into the cultivation process that promote biodiversity conservation. "The farmers in the region have a tradition of shade coffee, which grows in an environment that resembles a natural forest," says Fabio Arjona, CI-Colombia director. "Those active in the project maintain these traditions and diversify the types of trees found on farms. They also use fewer chemical fertilizers and pesticides."
For their efforts, roughly 350 farmers participating in the program receive premium prices for their high-quality beans, as well as technical support from CI's Conservation Coffee program and Colombia's agriculture ministry. Starbucks participation also provides a powerful link to world markets. "With Starbucks' global presence, we can get the product to market in thousands of Starbucks stores," explains Arjona.
Justin Ward, senior director for agriculture in the Center for Environmental Leadership in Business (CELB) at CI, acknowledges that current market prices for coffee are a major factor in the initiative. "Low global coffee prices are causing small-scale farmers to convert their shade coffee fields into cattle pasture, threatening the natural habitat and biodiversity of the region. Our work with Starbucks in Colombia and Mexico is helping to alleviate this threat by making environmentally friendly coffee production more profitable."
CELB is supporting key marketing and communications aspects of the project, as well as the development and promotion of the Green Coffee Purchasing Guidelines, launched in 2001 with Starbucks. Other Conservation Colombia supporters include the Corporación Valle de Cauca, which, along with the Colombian Coffee Federation, is providing technical and financial support.