COOPERATIVE | ANEI
LOCATION | Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
MEMBERS | 700+/- Members
MASL | 750 - 1550+/-
ANEI is an organization of Native Agroecological Producers and Farmers from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Serranía del Perijá. ANEI was founded in 1995 by Aurora Izquierdo, the first native Arhuaca woman from the community of Jewrwa to study in Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, with the objective of restructuring the region’s economy to support its native and farmer communities.
Through her work in the coffee industry, Izquierdo has helped to implement eco-sustainable programs and projects that have promoted food security among the local communities, and strengthened the peoples’ ability to reclaim their social, economic and cultural rights. In turn, the communities of ANEI are able to offer high quality organic coffee to the rest of the world.The production and commercialization of ANEI’s Organic Coffee is carried out with an emphasis on harmony between humans and the land, and respect for Mother Earth.
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria is home to more than 50,000 inhabitants among four indigenous communities, direct descendants of the ancient Tayrona culture. The landscape is a place of worship - no less worthy of veneration than a temple, church, or mosque. As guardians of the earth, these communities believe it is their duty to protect natural resources and show an ecological alternative to industrialized societies. To the indigenous communities of the Sierra, this landscape is the literal, beating heart of the world.
ANEI is a word in the language of the Arhuaco people, which roughly translated into English means ‘good’, ‘positive’ or ‘Delicious’. This word was chosen to represent an organization that aims to rebuild and strengthen indigenous communities and culture, as well as gain some economic resilience after decades of decline and neglect.
Coffee has been grown in the Sierra for a very long time, but in the past – before the formation of the cooperative – farmers sold it to street traders for whatever they could get, or to the FNC (Colombian Coffee Growers Federation) at the standard price. Consequently, the quality – and the return – was often poor. In its drive to increase the value of the crop to its members, the cooperative has focussed on improving the quality of the coffee, gaining organic and fair trade certification and increasing the yield per hectare. The fair trade premium has allowed farmers to make substantial changes to the way they grow and process their coffee, enabling them to purchase better equipment and build better facilities.
Currently, ANEI is working on filling in the final gap in its supply chain, which is the processing of their coffee for export. They realise that without their own mill, they cannot absolutely guarantee the quality of their coffee to their trading partners. They have been looking for a strategically located site near Pueblo Bello to build a dry mill, which when built, will finally bring their coffee completely under their own control all the way from the tree to the shipping container. This will mean that they will be able to put even more focus on all the things which contribute to coffee quality and the social improvements that are their core objective. One of their main, ongoing goals is increasing their productivity – which they recognise as being some of the lowest in the country – they believe that since they started their farmer training programme, they have more than doubled their production to 900kg per hectare, but in the future they aim to at least double that again. To this end, they now have 25 technical staff at their collection centres and out in the field, and have been attempting to build up a database of available composting materials in order to build more fertility into their soils.
ANEI is working with a long-term vision; they are using all their available resources and their coffee in particular to pull their people up and out of the poverty which had been imposed upon them. They seem to be working so fast to gain their independence, while at the same time, as they say, ‘looking seven generations into the future’.