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The changing climate of Colombian coffee

In Colombia's Caldas province, family coffee-growing smallholdings live under the threats of climate change, an aging farming population, and the exodus of young people to cities. But hope is on the horizon.
Photography by Rena Effendi

Passing on a coffee legacy

Alba Maria, matriarch of a multigenerational coffee-growing family in Caldas, Colombia, carefully selects only the ripest of her high-quality Arabica coffee beans. While a widening worldview leads young people away to the cities in search of better career prospects, Alba Maria remains hopeful that financial securities brought about by the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program will help see her daughter continue the family’s long-standing coffee traditions.

Photography by Rena Effendi

Protecting the family livelihood

For Alba and her family, growing coffee defines their way of life. Arabica holds cultural significance, standing as an emotional lineage that sees tradition and passion passed down through generations. But it’s a delicate balance, and coffee has to remain a viable way for farmers to support their families—a single crop failure could strip them of income for half a year. Participating in supportive programs like Nespresso AAA provides a tailored crop insurance scheme that compensates growers like Alba should the worst happen. Such plans are part of ongoing, supportive solutions designed to help farmers modernize without losing the soul of their craft.

Photography by Rena Effendi

Tradition is carried by the young

Alba’s husband gives their young granddaughter an up-close look at clusters of coffee cherries. There are 7,200 trees on their Caldas farm, the very same that Alba inherited from her grandparents, and, in turn, plans to pass on to her daughter. Coffee cultivation becoming a more financially secure vocation, as well as a cultural inheritance, may be what encourages younger generations—like Alba’s granddaughter—to take up the mantle one day, allowing the traditions of many generations to pass onto her.

Photography by Rena Effendi

Working toward a more secure future

In Aguadas, high in the Andes mountains in northern Caldas, Don Fabio and his wife, Maria Lindelia, also dedicate their lives to exceptional coffee. They’re among 1,500 members of the Aguadas Coffee Growers’ Cooperative who have decided to work with Nespresso in a bid to live comfortably after they can no longer work their fields. A collective pension fund ensures that the pair retain an income after retiring from a lifetime of hard work.

Photography by Rena Effendi

In Aguadas, coffee is celebrated

In the mist-shrouded Andean town of Aguadas, coffee from farms all over the surrounding mountains is collected and delivered together to the local coffee cooperative via a unique form of transport—chiva buses. Adorned in wonderfully bold colors, these vivid traditional vehicles reflect the mood of the town whenever they arrive packed with families and their coffee. It’s seen as a celebration, a sign of life and vibrancy, and a chance to catch up with friends who live a little farther outside of town.

Photography by Rena Effendi

The art of quality coffee

Colorful chiva buses are a common sight in Caldas province. As evident here, these vehicles moonlight as rolling art galleries, draped in brightly colored murals often steeped in religious symbolism, with Jesus, angels, saints, or the Virgin Mary painted on the back to protect families and their coffee cargo.

Photography by Rena Effendi

Many hands build a bright future

Positive change takes root across the rolling green landscape of Caldas, as a collaborative effort between Nespresso and coffee farmers begins to secure the future of the beverage that greets the world each morning. Where once a bout of bad weather could render a year’s work near worthless, insurance schemes ensure farmers are paid for their care and effort. Younger generations are less likely to leave the area in pursuit of a better life upon the discovery that one already exists in continuing a revived heritage—now happily handed over by their aging parents, who can retire safely knowing their life’s work is in good hands.

More coffee stories here.

Photography by Rena Effendi