Sustainable Coffee Farming in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Story: Think of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and landmarks including the Tayrona National Park, Minca and the Lost City are likely to spring to mind. While all of these are beautiful – and worth visiting – I would like to dedicate this visual story to the coffee farmers that inhabit this mountain range, and shed light on both their culture and their eco-friendly practices.

My journey began at the coast of Santa Marta. As I headed inland, entering the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the beauty of the landscape took my breath away. Hills of blueish green stretched as far as the eye could see, punctuated by the odd small house. The ascent was sharp and I quickly rose to 5,700m above sea level from where I could see across the Sierra Nevada to the flora and fauna sanctuary of Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta.

I reached San Javier, a village set on a mountain ridge dressed in clouds. There is only one road here, with houses on each side. Horses and mules laden with large coffee bags were guided through, children were playing and the elderly were relaxing.

Life revolves around coffee in small villages such as this, and it was beautiful to see how many families worked together in its production. Beans were scattered everywhere – they were laid out to dry around houses and beside the road, and stacked in big 70kg bags in warehouses.

On the steep mountainside, coffee farmers observe soil preservation practices, making room for biodiversity. Sustainable practices and philosophies such as this have meant that their produce can be certified as both organic and fair trade.

As generations of farmers in the Sierra Nevada work to meet the growing demand for quality coffee, their continuing dedication to protecting their environment is something truly beautiful to behold.

@pieterbasbouwmanphotography
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