Community Mill in Colombia: Changing the way Coffee has been processed for over 100 years

Community Mill in Colombia: Changing the way Coffee has been processed for over 100 years

21 May 2020


“My grandparents were coffee farmers, my father was a coffee farmer and I’ve carried it on,” said Humberto Galeano, surveying his lush farm in Jardín, Colombia, where birds and butterflies seem to dance amongst the trees.

At some point, it did not look like this.

“Our grandparents’ generation chopped down the forests and the wildlife was gone,” he admitted.

Since taking his coffee beans to be processed at Jardín’s Community Mill, Humberto knows that water is better cared for in the region. Before the mill opened in 2010, local farmers processed their own coffees cherries. The quality of the coffee was not always consistent as the processing standards varied. They were also using lots of water to wash their cherries and their untreated wastewater was sometimes polluting rivers.

We were looking for a way of ensuring a continuous supply of high-quality coffee and increasing the farmer’s income, while also protecting the environment, so we decided to build the mill, which is in the Department of Antioquia. It’s part of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program.

Our partners included the exporter Expocafé, the Andes Coffee Cooperative, USAID, the non-profit development agency ACDI/VOCA, Cenicafé, the Colombian coffee research centre and the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC). Read more about our partners here.

AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program

In 2003, the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program was created with the Rainforest Alliance. This tailor-made coffee program makes sure we can offer you the highest quality coffee supporting sustainable livelihoods for farmers and their communities while protecting the environment.

Around 200 farmers now take their coffee cherries to be processed at the mill, which is managed by the local Andes co-operative. Farmers are now saving up to four hours a day. They also earn more as they are receiving higher premiums for the consistent high quality coffee produced at the mill.

The environment is also benefiting from the mill. The facility saves around 60 percent of the amount of water the farmers previously used. It also treats its own wastewater, so there’s no water pollution.

“If I don’t wash coffee at home and instead take it to the mill, then we don’t pollute the water,” Humberto said. He gazed at his land again. “This is my children’s legacy.”

The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program has also encouraged him to grow more native trees, which is why his farm now attracts so much wildlife. Having a more biodiverse environment in his farm also ensures more fertile soils and in the long run can improve the quality of his coffee.

The Community Mill has also helped change the life of coffee farmer and father of two Esteban Suarez who used to struggle to see his family during the crop. After spending up to 12 hours picking coffee on his farm in Jardín, he’d depulp it late into the evening, then wake up before sunrise the following morning to wash it.

Not any more. Esteban, 34, now takes his coffee to be processed at the mill. As well as having more time to spend with his wife and children, aged seven and 10, he can also volunteer as a firefighter.

“Now I can go to the mill at 6pm,” said Esteban. “I save time there and get to wake up at 6am the next day to pick more. I’m able to spend more time at home with the wife and kids, which is ideal”.

“I got into firefighting to help people. If I see a person needs me, I feel a need to help them. I can’t stand by and do nothing.”

The mill has given farmer Luiz Angel more time to pursue his fishing passion. “The shell, which is the first thing to come off in the machine, ferments the water. And the bean has a slime that we call mucilage, which we would wash off and pollute the rivers with.”

Today, that is changing.

“The Community Mill has had a great impact on the community,” he said. ”We are helping to keep the rivers clean, and the environment as a whole.”

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