February 2019Coffee is one of Luis Angel’s two great passions. The other is fishing in the river that winds its way through the lush Colombian valley in which he lives.
So, it was a painful and difficult experience for him to watch as, over the years, pollution created by his livelihood did more and more damage to the river he loves.
"If you wanted to go swimming in the river, you had to leave your shoes on. That’s how polluted it was," says Luis.
If you wanted to go swimming in the river, you had to leave your shoes on. That’s how polluted it was.Luis Angel, Coffee farmer
He grows some of the highest quality coffee beans in the world on his farm nestled deep in the Andes mountain range. For generations, coffee farmers in Colombia have processed their own coffee beans. It takes a lot of time and a lot of water - and produces significant waste.
"The outer shell of the coffee cherry ferments in the water, and the bean has a slime we call mucilage which we would wash off and pollute the rivers with," Luis explains.
This type of processing also produces variable results, which meant that farmers often missed out on the premiums paid for high-quality coffee.
To reduce the environmental impact of coffee processing and improve the coffee quality, Nespresso and its partners FNC, Expocafe, Los Andes coffee cooperative, USAID and the development agency ACDI / VOCA worked with the local community to build a new processing mill in Jardin, not far from Luis’s farm.
Run by a cooperative, the mill brings together around 200 farmers who each earn more as the mill is able to achieve more consistent processing, resulting in higher quality beans.
In fact, the mill has enabled coffee farmers to double the volume of Nespresso AAA quality coffee produced, resulting in a 17% increase in their net income.
Since the mill opened, Nespresso’s rejection rate of beans has fallen from 50% to zero.
But the mill has brought much wider benefits too.
A coffee farmer will traditionally use around 25 liters of water to process each kilo of coffee. At the mill, only 11 liters of water per kilo is required – slashing water usage by over 60%.
The mill also has a waste management system that cleans and treats the water before it is released back into the river. Water pollution has been reduced by 100%.
The leftover pulp from the milling process is recycled into compost that the farmers can then use on their land.
Safeguarding the future
Coffee growing, and agriculture generally, can have significant environmental impacts; from heavy water use to land degradation. Farmers often must work long hours to make ends meet, and face unreliable incomes at harvest time.
The coffee mill at Jardin has eased the pressure on farmers, giving them more income, and has drastically reducing the environmental footprint of their farms.
By integrating infrastructures and processes that protect the environment, Nestlé and Nespresso are creating a virtuous circle and innovative business models that create shared value for today and for future generations.
The community mill has had a great impact on the community. We’re helping to keep the rivers clean.Luis Angel, Coffee farmer
Since the mill was built, Luis' precious river has returned to good health and he now regularly fishes with his young son.
"Mathias always wants to go fishing. It’s the same day in and day out. The community mill has had a great impact on the community. We’re helping to keep the rivers clean."