The Federación Abades is a collective of small producer associations that were brought together during the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Borderlands project. Abades is now an independent producer group with the infrastructure and know-how to collectively market their own coffee and decide their futures. This project is one of the most successful endeavours of its kind in the world of small coffee farmers. We’re proud to continue offering their coffee.
Samaniego & Federación Abades
Federación Abadaes is a collective of small producer associations residing within Nariño. These associations were created during the CRS Borderland Project to create market openings for producers in the region, to help make technical innovations in processing and quality and most of all, to help producers achieve self-determination. This lot is from the town Samaniego and the surrounding area.
The town of Samaniego has a complicated history. Situated along a highly contested route that moves coca (the plant from which cocaine is derived) between the Colombian coast and nearby borders of Ecuador and Peru, the region has long been a site for violence and conflict.
Between its location at the crossroads of cocaine smuggling routes and the high presence of FARC rebel groups, the town and the surrounding coffee lands have historically been quite isolated. Until 2017, visits to the region were highly unsafe and difficult to organise.
Despite this persistent violence, the coffee produced in Samaniego consistently ranks among the highest qualities in the department of Nariño. Producers here are now making the most of this potential, and Federación Abades is helping them.
Abades is today run by an elected group of representatives from each participating community. The board is composed mostly by women, who have been the prominent leaders and innovators in this region for some time. Many of the adult men in the community have left or been lost to the conﬂict over the course of many years and over more than one generation. The women have been running the farms, raising their families, and making the strides to improve their communities’ situation.
It took several years of intensive work and weathering of challenges, but this is one of the most successful endeavours of its kind in the world of small coffee farmers. Abades is now an independent producer group with the infrastructure and know-how to collectively market their own coffee and decide their futures.
This kind of organisation tied with quality and demand from the specialty market helps smallholder producers have more say in the supply chain. While smallholder producers in Colombia have many more options than most other countries for selling their coffee, it is rare that producers at this scale can dictate the terms and control of sales.
For more information on the work of Federación Abades, check out this blog post.
Contrary to other departments where newer, disease-resistant hybrids have replaced traditional coffee varieties, farmers in Nariño overwhelmingly grow Caturra, Typica and Bourbon. These ‘traditional’ varieties come with challenges, but the quality pay-off is great.
We are proud to have full traceability on each lot that went into this blend. We also know that each producer received a price well above the average internal price.
Harvest and Post-harvest
Coffee production in Nariño is small scale, for the most part. During the harvest season, cherry is carefully handpicked by smallholder farmers and their families. All farmers who contributed to our Abades lots processed their coffee using the traditional Fully washed method. Coffee is pulped, usually on a small, mechanised drum pulper, and then fermented in concrete or tile-lined tanks. Following fermentation, the coffee is washed with clean water before being laid out to dry.
Drying can take different forms in Nariño, usually depending on the size of farm. Some farmers use raised beds and others may have small, greenhouse-like parabolic dryers. Rooftop “elbas” are also widely used.
Drying, processing, and storage have all made signiﬁcant advances since the beginning of the project several years ago. The communication and connection between producers and the market actors has created a situation of better understanding of signals and potentials between both parties.
Autonomy Through Cupping
One of the most impressive advances of the Borderlands project has been the training of local staff to be able to run quality control (QC) operations at the producer level. With local staff who have comprehensive cupping and QC knowledge, producers can know the quality of their coffee and better understand its value. This gives them more knowledge when it comes to setting prices.
The cuppers in Abades Federación are almost exclusively the children of farmers. These young people, mostly in their late teens or early 20s, have made impressive strides.
The Nariño department sits in the far south of Colombia. It borders Ecuador and the high Andean peaks. Its closeness to the equator enables coffee growing at very high altitudes. Many farms are located at heights surpassing 2,000 metres above sea level.
While coffee growing is usually not seen at such high altitudes, it is made possible in Nariño thanks to plenty of sunlight, dependable and frequent rainfall and rich soils. Further, the landscape helps ensure nights do not get too cold for growing cherry. The heat that accumulates in the bottom of canyons rises into the mountains at night, protecting cherry from the extreme nighttime cold that comes with such a high altitude.
Coffee in Colombia
Ever since the early 19th century, Colombia has been producing and exporting coffees that are renowned for their full body, bright acidity and rich aftertaste. Colombia is a large country, at more than 1.1 million square kilometres, it is larger than Germany and Ukraine combined. Considering its size, it’s hardly a surprise that there are several distinct coffee growing areas in the country.
In the north, the beans are grown on lower altitudes and higher temperatures and will produce a deeper, earthier taste, with medium acidity, more body and nutty/chocolaty notes (Magdalena, Casanare, Santander, Norte De Santander). Coffees from the southern regions (Cauca, Narino, Huila and South of Tolima) are renowned for their smooth flavour with citric and sweet notes, backed by a medium body and increased acidity. The Central Region (Caldas, Quindío, Risaralda, North of Valle, Antioquia, Cundinamarca and North of Tolima) produces rather balanced coffee, with fruity and herbal notes, without losing the specific characteristics of each micro-region.
Colombia’s size not only affords it the title of the world’s second-largest Arabica producing country (after Brazil), but the wide variety of microclimates also means that we receive fresh crops from Colombia practically year-round.
To learn more about Colombia’s coffee growing regions, check out our origins page.