Manuel farms on a unique spot – it’s essentially in a national park between Colombia and Venezuela, in the municipality of Herrán. Many farmers in similar areas leave the farm in the evening and live in local towns or cities, but Manuel stays put.
While the views are absolutely stunning, this 2.5 hectare farm isn’t without danger. The nearby border is rife for smuggling.
Previously, this was solely drugs, but today it’s also gasoline – buying this in Venezuela, where the economy is significantly weaker, is highly profitable for those that then sell it on Colombian soil.
Due to the close proximity with the border, farmers in these areas, like Manuel, are under a huge amount of pressure from cartels to leave their farms and free up land for drug farming.
That’s why it’s hugely important for us to not only continue to pay Manuel a premium to encourage him to carry on (he’s been here for almost 40 years); we also need to demonstrate to the next generation that there’s a sustainable, profitable future in coffee farming – a far better prospect than what’s in the more illicit practices.
Eight out of nine of Manuel’s brothers are coffee farmers, so you can see what difference the industry makes to the local community.
We’ve been working with him for five years now, and his income has drastically increased. Our head of coffee, Will, has been encouraging him with the planting of Cenicafé 1, one of the most sustainable coffee varieties available.
Most importantly, Manuel’s coffee is one of Will’s favourites in the world. As Will puts it: “It’s like listening to a piece of music where they’ve perfectly nailed the balance between the instruments, the sound, tempo and volume”. High praise, indeed!
Lookout for coffees from Manuel’s farm, El Tolú, on the Pact menu very soon.