Bringing jobs to Colombia’s conflict-affected communities

Decades of violence and armed conflict in Colombia have created significant barriers to human development and lasting peace. To encourage the private sector to return to disaster-stricken areas, the United Nations is funding an innovative project that supports local businesses and creates desperately needed employment opportunities.

For Mélida Montero, coffee is not merely a beverage. It is a lifestyle. “I have always grown coffee, as have my parents and grandparents. My children were raised on coffee. Coffee is in my blood; this is what life has given me.

Ms. Montero resides in El Tambo, Cauca, a region of Colombia that was severely affected by the conflict prior to the signing of the Peace Agreement in August 2016. Prior to that time, local communities, particularly women, struggled to create reliable sources of household income.

In 2018, the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) – the United Nations’ financial instrument of first resort for sustaining peace in countries at risk or affected by violent conflict – financed an innovative, first-of-its-kind initiative through the Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Sustaining Peace in Colombia.

The perseverance of the ’50 Amigas’

As a result, fifty women, all of whom are household heads and coffee producers in El Tambo, have been empowered to start their own businesses and gain direct access to international markets to promote their coffee.

These women coffee growers created their own brand of organic roasted coffee, ’50 Amigas – Valiant collective,’ which represents the rich history of the Cauca mountains and the tenacity of its women. Their brand’s small-scale coffee production has helped them significantly increase their incomes.

“Because of coffee, I’ve been able to give my children everything. We are not wealthy, but food is always available. And I am able to assist other family members in times of need,” says Ms. Montero, who is pleased to be a member of the 50 Amigas.

“We are warriors. We never give up.

“We care for the environment and our own farm. Another member of the collective, Argenis Rosas, exclaims, “That makes me so proud.” “I am also teaching my children to care for the environment. I like what I do. We are implementing solar energy on the farm and composting.

Using an online digital platform, the entire coffee production process is transparent and 100 percent traceable. Additionally, the platform helps connect the women producers to the U.S. market and, eventually, other global markets.

“With these fifty Amigas, we are warriors. We do not surrender. The UN is assisting me in achieving my goals. “We appreciate your faith in us,” says Ms. Rosas.

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