Cultivating local knowledge to combat climate change
Grappling with the effects of climate change is an everyday reality for smallholder coffee farmers in the post-conflict region of Cauca, Colombia. Unpredictable temperatures, changing crop cycles and the increased prevalence of diseases such as coffee leaf rust present a major challenge for communities whose livelihood depends on agriculture.
Peace and education
La Cooperativa del Sur del Cauca (COSURCA), an organic-certified producers’ cooperative and FAF partner, offers financial support, processing and export services, and technical trainings on good agricultural practices to 1,400 families in the southern Cauca region. COSURCA’s support is holistic – aiming not only to generate economic opportunity for its members, but also to advocate for peace and to act as an educational platform for its members on issues related to health, food security and protecting local ecosystems.
“The beauty of this project is that it responds to real challenges that our members face.”
To support this mission, the Fairtrade Access Fund designed a customized Technical Assistance Program to help COSURCA operate more efficiently and to equip farmers with concrete strategies in the face of climate change. The project focused on 4 areas:
Strengthening financial management skills of cooperative staff
Supporting farmers to achieve the organic certification
Diversifying farms to produce organic cocoa alongside coffee
Establishing Escuelas Campesinas de Agroecologia (ECAS), a platform for farmers to exchange local knowledge about responsible natural resource management.
Empowering community members and cultivating local knowledge are at the heart of the TA project, and of what COSURCA does.
Through the ECAS model, the coffee producers themselves assume leadership roles based on their expertise in managing resources such as seeds, soil, water and medicinal herbs. With the help of a local expert in sustainable agriculture, this knowledge is then consolidated and shared with the rest of the community in the form of practical trainings on topics ranging from irrigation and drainage to organic fertilizers and biodiversity. In doing so, COSURCA stresses the importance of preserving not only local ecosystems, but also local culture, history and knowledge.
To date, FAF’s TA support has helped COSURCA to train over 800 smallholder farmers on sustainable farming practices and to establish 11 ECAS community schools throughout the Cauca region.