Bogota, Dec 10th, 2014. Last week the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) celebrated its LXXX National Congress of Coffee Growers. Composed of elected representatives from all coffee growing regions, the Growers Congress is the highest deliberative body of the FNC. They met on behalf of the more than 500,000 Colombian coffee growing families, to define the priorities of their industry for the upcoming five years, 2015-2020.
The five year strategy contains initiatives to more efficiently manage production costs and increase productivity by using new and customized technologies accessible to individual growers; It also includes topics such as the development and deepening of markets for Colombian coffee around a policy supported on quality, differentiation and value creation for the farmer; in addition, adaptation and mitigation of climate change and the management of climate risks will also continue to be a priority for the FNC.
Over the past five years, the FNC has focused its efforts on changing Colombian coffee trees for more productive and rust-resistant varieties through ambitious plant renovation programs. These efforts, which have resulted in renovating nearly 3.2 billion coffee trees, have improved the productive capacity of nearly 500,000 small coffee growers in Colombia. As a result, Colombia is now again repositioned as the most important source of high quality coffees demanded by the market while other Arabica producers are facing big challenges as a result of climate change. Thus, climate change and the need to adapt to new challenges remains a key topic for Colombia’s coffee growers.
The new plan also includes a social investment component directed to improve access to social security and the development of investment programs that strengthen the social fabric in coffee growing areas through public and private partnerships. Gender equality and leadership programs will also be part of the new strategy aimed at 553,000 families that produce coffee in the country. During the sessions, both Government officials, including President Juan Manuel Santos and his cabinet ministers and coffee grower representatives, agreed on the fact that no other economic activity can generate the income and social development that coffee does in the rural areas of Colombia. That is why it was underlined that the FNC remains a key actor for the construction of social fabric in rural areas of the country and an agent of change and promotion of peace, as different academic studies have shown.
The FNC’s contributions to Colombian rural development and well-being of coffee farmers were showcased during the Grower´s Congress by national and international experts who were invited to participate as speakers. Bruce Bagley, professor of International Relations at the University of Miami and an expert on Colombia, mentioned that the FNC has been key to the delivery of development programs and the building of social capital in many coffee growing regions, which today are the most prosperous and least violent areas of rural Colombia. The role of the FNC, he stated, should extend to other historically marginalized regions so that, at this juncture of the search for peace, they will not be at the mercy of new illegal organizations or gangs, given the difficulties of the state to reach these areas.
Another important pillar of the FNC´s 2015-2020 strategy is rural education. The main goal is to invest in bold education programs that contribute to strengthening its quality and relevance, while providing wider coverage for coffee communities. At the same time, the aim is to encourage younger generations to participate in coffee growing activities, improving the lives of their families and maintaining the quality of Colombian coffee.
Lastly, the topic of the environment and sustainability will continue being of utmost concern and priority for the FNC in the coming years. Colombian growers are committed to maintain their position at the forefront of technology in order to combat climate change and ensure sustainability, and the FNC will also continue to promote the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources in order to protect the Colombian land and its water sources.
The National Coffee Growers Congress also concluded with a majority support for the FNC’s current CEO, Luis G. Muñoz, whose report to Congress was accepted by all delegates.