Origin Stories: Fairtrade Cooperatives in Colombia

12 August, 2021 3 min read

Colombia Anei is grown by the Anei Coop, an indigenous led cooperative made up of families belonging to 4 native communities (Arhuacos, Koguis, Kankuamos and Wiwas) and farmers from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Serranía del Perijá. Guided by their spiritual connection to the land, the Coop has used Fairtrade coffee as a vehicle for change; uplifting communities, reclaiming traditional land and restoring cultural practices for generations to come. 

Connecting with ancestral communities

Jasper Coffee has sold Colombia Anei since 2008. However it wasn’t until their trip to Colombia in 2017, that Co-founders Merilyn and Wells understood just how unique this coffee was within the socio-political landscape of the region.

Colombia Anei co-op

During the Spanish invasion of the 1580’s, indigenous people lost family, culture, and precious arable land. They were forced further into the mountains with access to few resources. Their recovery has been centuries in the making, but entirely driven by the power of thought. 

“What’s amazing about this group of people is that they have a very spiritual connection to the land...and believe that everything is a result of thought... In their culture, things are very considered, nothing is by accident, everything is a thoughtful process, to the point where what they’re thinking is, not one but, seven generations ahead.” - Merilyn Parker, Cofounder Jasper Coffee

Coffee as a vehicle for change

Jasper Coffee partners with Coops in Colombia for their sheer fortitude in the face of adversity, their respect for the land, and their farming philosophy.

“They’ve had a history of agrarian ecosystems, of crop rotation, and ecologically managing everything about the way they live. Their use of coffee as a vehicle is not dissimilar to ours...in that it’s about what we can do with our business through coffee that really drives us.”
- Merilyn Parker, Co-founder of Jasper Coffee


During a dinner with a local Colombian coffee exporter, Merilyn and Wells met Aurora Izquierdo, an Arhuaca native woman from the community of Yewrwa and Founder of the Anei Coop. Aurora is the dynamo driving coffee as a vehicle of change for indigenous communities. As the daughter of an influential spiritual leader, Aurora convinced the elders to allow her to leave their closed community in pursuit of tertiary education. Aurora's education provided insight into the value of coffee as a commodity, and how it could be used to help indigenous peoples reclaim lost territory. Upon her return, Aurora worked to found Anei and use coffee as a means to empower her community.  

"Her whole goal was to use coffee as a vehicle to protect the culture, to help her community have access to better health, better education, and income, and also to reacquire original land back in the river valley."
- Merilyn Parker, Co-founder of Jasper Coffee

Colombia Anei co-op

Innovation that restores tradition

Today, the crops of the indigenous communities of the Anei Coop grow abundantly along the riverland, beside traditional dwellings built using Fairtrade premiums. 

“What Fairtrade has done is given them additional premiums, through the coffee,...to improve crop quality, educate people, improve health and in addition, buy back their land.”
- Merilyn Parker, Co-founder of Jasper Coffee

The Coop built a wet processing plant to remove coffee pulp and turn waste into compost. Not only did this provide production efficiencies, it helped them generate an additional source of income from selling compost. The Anei Coop recovered local orphanages and turned them into schools where traditional languages and cultural practices could be taught. They’d even set up microfinancing so that their communities could access resources during low-income periods.

“They’ve created a program to train people form the age of 21 to about 35 in a diverse range of skills that will benefit the community from health, agronomy, coffee grading to logistics management - these young people go off and get an education and come back and work within the community...There’s also a really big focus making sure that women get brought forward within the community ...with 70% of roles filled by women.”
- Merilyn Parker, Co-founder of Jasper Coffee

Through Fairtrade, indigenous communities have improved their living conditions and immortalised their ancestral heritage. With a voice, access to education, and enduring relationship with the land, the Anei Coop isn’t simply an example of Fairtrade improving lives, but empowering an entire industry to return to nature. 

Explore our blog for moreOrigin Stories about our Fairtrade Certified coffee from  Papua New Guinea,  Ethiopia and  East Timor. ShopColombia Anei to support these ancestral communities today.