LOS OSOS - Biodiversity in Santa Maria, Colombia

Los Osos “The Bears” – One goal: Restore and Protect Biodiversity

People

Los Osos is a celebration of the work done in Santa Maria, Huila, to restore and protect the biodiversity, especially in the ”buffer” area surrounding the Parque Nacional Nevado del Huila. For this lot, we chose the name “Los Osos” as a homage to the local protected species Spectacled Bear, also known as the “Andean Bear”, recently listed among the most vulnerable species by IUCN. These species are the only bears in South America and so are very representative of the region.  

The Coffee Quest Colombia has been working in Huila with Santa Maria Station for several years, as this was our first regional station. Thanks to the help of local partners, such as Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia and Fusamdes, we are contributing to raising awareness among coffee farmers about nature conservation and sustainable farming practices. Preserving the habitat of these wild and endangered species, such as the Andean Bars, will indirectly protect other species in the area.

In 2018, the local organization Fusamdes, started a project, also funded by WWF and FAO, to better involve peasants and coffee growers around the Huila Volcano. After research, it turned out that many coffee producers. of the area were using the lands belonging to the natural reserve to grow coffee. So, there was a need to intervene and implement a participatory and collaborative approach to reach mutual intentions among local authorities, producers and organizations involved.

The Coffee Quest stepped in with the aim of restoring biodiversity, cleaning water, and focussing on reforestation and sustainable farming practices.

Moreover, Santa Maria has been isolated from the rest of the world for years due to the tough conflicts often going on. Being part of the mountain range in Northern Huila, Santa Maria was a strategic corridor during the constant fighting between guerrillas and government troops. A troubled history, but it has turned a new leaf.

The commitment to their product flows in these farmers’ veins. The motivation of these farmers is what pushes us to find a home for each coffee. With a troubled past behind and hidden from the world, they now have the chance to invest in their future and even think long-term, and we are glad to be part of this.

Product

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The remote geographical location, as well as the isolation, has kept the village away from outside influence. The coffee production here remained untouched for over 20 years. As a result, farmers are still growing mostly old-school coffee varieties such as Caturra and Typica (almost no Castillo), which are a much better fit for specialty coffee.

Los Osos “The Bears” as the name and the bag design suggest, is fully devoted to the Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus), also known as the “Andean Bear” and locally as Jukuamari, a protected animal, which has been classified as “vulnerable” by IUCN because of the loss of habitat. 

This “homage” is to help the local organizations to raise awareness among coffee farmers that certain agricultural practices can endanger other native species as well, like the spectacled bear, but also jaguars or birds.

Price

The Santa Maria station is our core access point. This was the first regional station we opened in Colombia. Our goal was to shorten the supply chain, pay fair prices to farmers and give them the right tools to improve their quality. Thanks to the support of local partners, we were able to build a small warehouse and a “cupping lab” which has become a local hot spot. We are happy to see that in this way, we were able to get closer to the community and generate more local impact

Planet

The Coffee Quest is happy to see the farmers in Santa Maria taking action towards sustainable practices. One of the main challenges to become more sustainable is to implement a circular economy and reduce the high levels of water used to wash the coffee berries, whose mucilage will pollute the water.

We are supporting the projects funded by Parque Nacional Nevado del Huila with the aim to reduce water pollution, increase the recycling of waste products of coffee production, organic or almost organic fertilization, implement native and fruit trees reforestation to create more shade, bring back biodiversity to the farm and to improve soil quality

There is continuous activity on all fronts, giving workshops, training, personal farm visits, financial aid to provide eco-washers (to reduce water for washing) and a nursery for growing young native trees.

Additionally, The Coffee Quest is implementing a program that complements the efforts of the National Park to create a buffer area to protect endangered species, by supporting and training coffee farmers to transition into organic farming. This program will reduce the impact that traditional coffee production has on the environment by reducing chemical use and creating awareness of nature conservation.

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