Find out how our agency in Colombia works closely with producers.
From the 4th to the 8th of July 2022, the Belco Colombia agency organised a training on organic farming and the standards around certified organic production.
All participants were based at the El Balcón farm located in the village of Buenavista, 40 minutes from the Belco agency in Armenia. The training was led by Constance Dorise, an organic consultant specialising in coffee growing.
The idea of this training was to provide an experience that combines theory, practice (preparation of organic fertilisers and pesticides), knowledge sharing and teamwork. All this immersed in a farm where organic farming practices are king!
Why this training?
Conventional agriculture involves a high consumption of external intrants such as synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Unfortunately, it does not take into account the environment, natural cycles, or the rational and sustainable use of natural resources.
Organic farming is a low external intrants production system that recycles agricultural resources such as crop residues or manure and uses them to improve soil fertility. This form of agriculture is the oldest form of land cultivation, employing family labour and passing on knowledge about nature from one generation to the next.
- To develop knowledge about different organic methods and practices and how to manage them on a farm
- To make participants aware of these practices so that they can pass them on to their teams
- Inform about the organic regulatory framework so that producers know what to do to be certified and then be able to export
The entire Belco Colombia agency coordinated the training: Diego Zamora, Belco Colombia Director, Mónica Fuentes, Field Engineer, Cesar Rengifo, Quality Manager and María Silvia Rojas, Marketing Manager.
But also Gabriela Parfait, Belco's UK Sales Manager, Jean Etchats, Belco's Quality Manager, as well as Rodrigo Guevara, Field Engineer of the Belco El Salvador agency.
Many coffee producers joined us: from El Salvador, Guatemala Vides 58, Peru, Coopagro cooperative, Colombian coffee producers from different regions, Santander (Daza family), Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Anei Association), Gaitania, Tolima (Asocanafi Association of the Nasawe'sx indigenous community) and a coffee producer from the Quindío region, Jesús Bedoya.
THE TOPICS WE DISCUSSED:
We started with general information about agriculture and a sharing of key data to understand the issues:
- Statistics show that the area devoted to agricultural production in the world is 75 million ha.
- Only 1.6% of the world's agricultural land is managed organically.
- The organic market is worth €120 billion, mainly in the US, Germany and France.
This week's program includes:
- Establishing an organic coffee plantation
- Nutrient management
- Inter-row coffee management
- Phytosanitary management
- Adaptation to climatic conditions
- Certification process
Preparation of a bokashi :
Preparation of mountain microorganism :
Homemade Bordeaux mixture made from copper sulphate, whitewash and water :
Preparation of sulphocalcic solution based on whitewash, sulphur and water :
The last day was dedicated to visiting the farms of Jesús Bedoya, a coffee producer and roaster from Quindío. The aim of the visit was to show how he manages his production and processing in an organic way, not with the immediate aim of being certified but more out of personal conviction.
Basic concepts of natural agriculture:
- Byodinamic agriculture: cosmic rhythms
- Organic farming: natural cycles, improves soil fertility
- Bio-organic farming: understanding of soil life, farmer autonomy
- Natural agriculture: no action, only human intervention when needed.
- Local conditions: climate, soil, varieties, water availability.
- Budget: Estimate costs of labour, project, supplies, certification process, etc.
- Knowledge: acquiring knowledge about organic practices and regulations.
- Farm diagnosis: knowledge of employees, availability of resistant varieties, presence of beneficial plants and trees.
- Nutritional diagnosis: sampling for soil analysis, physical, biological and chemical interpretations.
- Phytosanitary diagnosis: pests and diseases on the site, assessment of the level of infestation in relation to the level of economic damage.
- Strategy: Analysis of the legislation of the target export market, fertilisation plan with authorised substances, identification and selection of pest and disease control methods and contact with certification bodies to develop a roadmap and action plan.
Behind the scenes...
This was the first training course organised by Belco Colombia since the opening of the agency only a few months ago! The synergy was great and the whole team is very proud!
Maria Silvia, Belco Colombia:
"it was super rewarding to see such a diverse group in terms of culture, age (from 17 to 50!), knowledge and expectations work so well! For example, Justiniano Paya Cupaque, the leader of Asocanafi, is an indigenous man whose father was the leader of the community that signed the first peace agreement with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) 26 years ago. This community in the Gaitania region of Tolima has been terribly affected by violence for over 50 years. Now they can live in peace, growing coffee and beans. Justiniano told us how his father participated in this historic moment in Colombia and how difficult his journey was, he did not study and his mother tongue is not Spanish but the Nasa Yuwe language of the Paez tribe."
At the end of the week, everyone was happy, we felt that a real complicity had been created. New friendships emerged through working together towards a common goal, but also through "off road" moments like trekking at night, walking to the village of Buenavista for sightseeing, going to the top of the mountain to have the best sunset in history, sharing a barbecue while playing traditional Colombian games like "Rana", which literally translates as "frog" and, in which there is a frog (but it is not real, relax). Many people believe that this game was invented centuries ago by the Incas to worship frogs, which were considered magical. It was not originally a game, but rather a ritual that later became a game.
The experience was so cool and rewarding on all levels that we hope to do it again soon! We only regret not to have been able to receive our team from Belco Ethiopia because of a visa problem... Next time we will be together! :)