Fair Trade coffee producing organizations in Colombia are driving innovative initiatives to harvest coffee and maintain local sales amid the government-imposed quarantine following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Association of Women Coffee Producers of the Department of Cauca have recruited workers, who are suspended due to the cessation of activities in a local factory, to collect coffee because they cannot transfer workers from other municipalities. The families of the associates have also been involved in the collection. Coffee is being kept on the associates’ farms while mobility restrictions are in place because they don´t allow producers to move the coffee to the city of Popayan for processing.
“We are collecting the coffee in our houses, as in our farms there are no warehouses for storage, we are putting it in our living rooms or in rooms that we vacate. They are taking precautions, there is hand washing when workers arrive when they eat breakfast, when they go to lunch, they are using masks, they are taking their precautions and we at the farm are also supplying them with soap and water. The labor is not brought from other parts, nor from other small roads, it is only local.Neighbors and families are participating,”explained Orfa Orozco, president of AMUCC.
WhatsApp groups have become the most effective means of communication for women producers, who through this medium share important information about biosecurity measures, government regulations, and technical assistance for the management of their farms.
This form of communication with the associates has also been implemented by the Ecological Producers Network of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Red Ecolsierra), which has already finished the harvest period, but is processing the coffee. For Víctor Cordero, general manager of Red Ecolsierra, the coronavirus pandemic has forced organizations and also government entities to carry out processes digitally and to take more advantage of new technologies.
“Since the pandemic began, everyone has migrated to online and digital documentation, which of course also helps a lot, a document as essential for export as the BL, that if customers did not receive it physically, they did not pay it, today it is digital. Well, that shows that this (digital change) was really possible,” emphasizes Cordero.
To adapt to the new circumstances, Red Ecolsierra is redesigning its sales models to strengthen Internet sales with home deliveries, since many people cannot get to the offices to buy coffee due to mobility restrictions.
For Cordero, the pandemic is also an opportunity for small producer organizations to strengthen their digital communication channels with customers and with their membership and to start promoting electronic commerce.
“Of course it forces us as organizations to have to rethink the business model. For instance, the web pages, which many of our organizations had not paid much attention to, we have been forced to redesign them and the issue of digital platforms for communication has also involved making great changes in the way organizations communicate with our associates or how we hold meetings with our board of directors,” he said.