While Colombian roaster Devoción has sourced specialty arabica beans directly from independent farmers and paid more than the fair-trade asking price since 2006, its most recent initiative focuses on educating both the growers of today and tomorrow.
Colombia was embroiled in armed conflict with the Farc guerrilla movement until just four years ago, and much of Devoción’s 2,000-strong network of coffee farmers, many who live in remote indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, have long needed support. Social and environmental programmes – such as minimising the ecological impact by drying coffee husks and recycling them for mushroom cultivation – to help assure their future and lead a more secure life have always formed part of the roaster’s objectives, and education is its latest undertaking.
In 2018, Devoción’s team, led by Medellín-born founder Steven Sutton, launched a pilot video scheme, lending tablets downloaded with educational workshops to growers in two communities. A physical presence in hard-to-reach valleys and mountains, the devices helped farmers to learn new skills such as leadership and resilience, and the pilot had such a positive impact that Devoción prepared a second series.
Meanwhile, community leaders of the future undertook a Devoción-organised coffee programme at a Cundinamarca high school near Bogotá in 2019. By setting up a postharvest laboratory, students learnt how to taste and prepare coffee in barista workshops and the caffeine-fuelled scheme was so successful that teachers have now included it in the official curriculum.
Steven Sutton, founder