Working on a farm is not easy. Farmworkers from all over the country fight to keep their craft alive every day for it has not been given the recognition and value it deserves. Regardless of how experienced and careful a farmer is, the success of each crop and resulting harvest is dependent on our planet´s volatile and uncontrollable climate. Furthermore, no matter how much effort is put into a crop, the economic retribution hardly ever corresponds with the sacrifice invested into it. The resulting effect of the precariousness of this industry is disastrous for those involved; most end up migrating into the city and too few remain out in the countryside to dedicate their lives to the ancient practice of working the land.
Within the world of coffee production, the direct consequence of the prolonged denigration of the farmers’ work can be seen in the loss of a trained workforce which has directly affected the quality of the harvest. This is troubling for obvious reasons but perhaps the most important one being that without a quality harvest at the hand of a trained picker, it is almost impossible to guarantee a cup of coffee of the highest quality.
We are aware of the great responsibility we hold within this supply chain and with this consciousness in mind, we have created the Pickers Project.
We gathered a group of 30 pickers from the vereda of Tasnaque, who committed to expand their knowledge and skill of this craft. Located within the fertile hills of the municipality of Yacuanquer, this area seemed ideal for the project because of its characteristic natural qualities such as the availability of spring water, the right temperatures and an appropriate amount of sunlight. Azahar has sourced great quantities of coffee from here, meaning that we are well-aware of the great effort that goes into the crops of this region. Furthermore, we have found a neighborhood within the community known as El Naranjo, where almost everyone is related both directly or indirectly making it a fitting location for the Pickers Project to take off.
Entire families; children, old folks and men and women alike, all who have dedicated their lives to coffee production were trained by the quality control experts at Azahar in the optimization of harvesting coffee. During a pilot workday, they were offered twice the normal pay per kilo picked of coffee cherries at their peak ripeness.
With these strong community ties, newly gained practical knowledge and a fortified economic incentive, the pilot project was successful: the quality of the harvest grew significantly and a new trustworthy relationship was forged from the resulting hard work and the promise of just pay.
The coffee that came from this experiment has provided with us an immense pride and it permits us to close the fiscal year with the certainty that we are accomplishing one of our main objectives—to help in strengthening the livelihoods of the communities of the Colombian countryside and to offer our clients an exceptional cup of coffee.