SCA announces its 2020 Sustainability Award for Las Manos del Café project in Colombia

Launched in 2016, the Las Manos del Café project brought together leading industry partners and a group of dedicated farmworkers to contribute to the improvement of labour conditions in the coffee industry. Rural workers are often overlooked in the efforts to build a more sustainable coffee supply chain, yet they perform a crucial job in ensuring the competitiveness of the millions of coffee farms across the globe.

Solidaridad is delighted to see the Las Manos del Café project, led by RGC Coffee, recognized as a 2020 SCA Sustainability Award Winner. Solidaridad has been an active member of the coalition that initiated this project four years ago, with the goal of contributing to the social viability of employment in the coffee industry.

Carlos Isaza, head of the coffee programme for Solidaridad in Colombia, describes the award as “the recognition of collaborative work to positively impact an often invisible stakeholder of the coffee supply chain with little access to support.” In the four years since its launch, Las Manos del Café has grown substantially in its reach and now offers benefits to 505 male and female rural workers in the Eje Cafetero of Colombia.

Through a collaborative process between RGC, Solidaridad, Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade USA, FNC and CRS, the coffee farmers are supported to design solutions for workers within this groundbreaking pilot in Colombia, a country where coffee is handpicked by over 150,000 workers. Most rural work in Colombia is done under unstable contractual conditions, with tough working conditions and without a living income. The partnership focused on the provision of services for improving workers’ wellbeing, along with strengthening relations between workers, producers, and local organizations. The strategy, co-created with the coffee farmers in the area, centred around 6 pillars: 

  • Protection and safety of workers: Accident insurance, savings, training in health & safety
  • Good treatment for workers: Workers’ family recreation, wellbeing activities in villages, training activities with producers
  • Well-being services for workers and families: Medical, dental, and vision services, school supplies, funeral aid, weekend recreation, Cholinesterase tests
  • Home improvements: Supporting improvements to workers’ homes
  • Alternatives to promote income stability for workers: Credit for business ventures, piloting of a beekeeping venture
  • Community infrastructure to make work easier: Community cable cars construction, design of other infrastructure solutions

 Ángela Peláez, Sustainability Manager for RGC Coffee, said the award “represents an important step towards the dignity of rural work and the visibility of the most invisible and vulnerable in the supply chain. 

Those who go to coffee farms every day to work; they do not own land, they only go to farms to work and live from daily salary. This project was born as a dream four years ago when doing a survey in one small coffee town in Antioquia—we learned how vulnerable and poor they were and decided to go from research to action.” -Ángela Peláez

At the successful completion of the pilot phase, Las Manos del Café was able to attract partnerships from global coffee brands, such as Starbucks and Keurig, enabling the transition to a permanent programme. With 3 Cooperatives in Caldas and a fourth being launched in Antioquia, the programme is poised to reach more than 7,500 beneficiaries by the end of 2020. Additionally, the publication of a manual on good labour practices, based on the programme results, is being made available for replication across the coffee industry.

The worker is finally being considered. If you are treated well, you feel motivated.” – Coffee farmer & programme participant

Read more about our work in Coffee.