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Jaime Elias Eraso in Nariño: Reaping the benefits of sustainable quality farming

Jaime and his wife Bianca sun-drying coffee
in their farm in Nariño, Colombia.

A sustainable life transformation

Jaime Elias Eraso bought his farm with his wife Blanca 25 years ago, in the highlands of Nariño, Colombia. At the time it was covered only with grazing fields. Slowly they built it up, sowing maize, sweet potato and yucca. Then they added coffee. While it only occupies a fraction of the farm – only 2 of the 10 hectares total – the coffee that they have sold through the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program since 2007 has transformed their lives.

 

A unique terroir

 

When we talk to friends and neighbours who aren’t part of the Nespresso AAA Program, I ask them why they aren’t in it, because it’s the best thing that has happened to me and my family.

 

Nariño is in southwestern Colombia, with the Pacific Ocean to the west and Ecuador to the south. Nariño was the first region in Colombia to earn a Denomination of Origin appellation for its coffee, and together with the departments of Cauca and Huilo, is referred to as the “zone of quality”. The region benefits from particular conditions such as abundant sunlight at high altitudes, ideal rainfall patterns and rich volcanic soil. Warm humid winds rise up from the valley to warm the mountains, allowing the cultivation of coffee at higher altitudes than elsewhere in the country. The special terroir gives the coffee grown in Nariño a unique taste and aroma that is prized worldwide for unusually high acidity, sweetness and mildness. With the Rosabaya Grand Cru and the Limited Edition Sandona before it, Nespresso shares the taste of this magnificent origin with its consumers.

 

Nariño is known as the “zone of quality” and has been
the first region in Colombia to earn a Denomination
of Origin appellation for its coffee.

Learning to farm with respect for the earth

Yet in addition to terroir, it is the human hand – from cultivation techniques to processing and grading – that also plays an important role in coffee quality. Prior to joining the AAA Program, Eraso admits that there were factors he ignored that lowered the excellence of his product. “We were losing money by selling coffee that was not processed well. Through the AAA Program I learned to process the coffee better and cleaner. We also used to dry our coffee on the ground, and animals like the chickens could get into it and make it dirty. Now I use a raised parabolic drying bed.” Being in the AAA Program has changed Eraso’s relationship to nature, and he now nurtures the biodiversity that contributes to the excellence of his crops. “Previously, we didn’t care about the forest animals. We burned or buried our trash. We didn’t leave space for the native trees but cut them down. With everything we have learned through the AAA Program, we now look after the animals. Birds that we didn’t see before now come here. We take care of the wild trees now. We don’t burn anymore, but collect and separate our trash, and use the kitchen waste for compost.”

 

From coffee grower to coffee entrepreneur

Since joining the AAA Program, Eraso is transforming how he runs his farm, and is glad to be reaping the benefits.

ID CARD

  • Name: Jaime Elias Eraso
  • Age: 53
  • Farm: Piedra Grande
  • Location: Olaya district, Nariño, Colombia
  • Size of farm: 10 hectares
  • Joined the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program: 2007

“Things have totally changed. Thanks to the increase in income paid for the sustainable quality of our green coffee we have been able to do things like fix up our house, and I bought another plot for growing coffee. Everything is better organised and clean: I’m more efficiently managing my farm. I don’t worry that the coffee will get wet if it’s raining, since the raised drying beds are covered.”

For Eraso, being in the AAA Program means more than just higher premiums; it is an on-going process of improvement: “Every day we do little things to improve. When the agronomist visits, he gives me advice on managing the farm better. With his help I am controlling the quality of the water that runs through the farm, improving my record keeping and providing more training for the people who help me in my work. We are also taking part in more group activities in the community, such as improving the roads. We have raised chickens and pigs together as a group, and we have planted vegetables.”

Eraso is glad to have found a partner in excellence: “When we talk to friends and neighbours who aren’t part of the Nespresso AAA Program, I ask them why they aren’t in it, because it’s the best thing that has happened to me and my family. It changes the way you work on the farm, such as how you manage your workers and process the coffee. I invite them to come visit my farm to see for themselves what it’s like.”

     

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