My name is Maria Jose, I was born and raised in the Colombian Coffee Region, which is composed of three states El Quindio, Risaralda and Caldas. What I learned and I strongly believe by growing up in this region of Colombia is that the most profitable business is agriculture.
Most of the life centers around farms and the people who have succeeded are the the one’s who know how to take care of the land. There are a lot of stories about low income families that overcome poverty by working in agriculture.
A year ago I made a project with one of the farms in this region trying to make it more profitable. Through my investigation I realized that if they create a brand with their product to market it themselves, they can eliminate third parties and will be able to generate a much bigger profit for themselves. The Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia is attempting to do that right now, but I still feel there is much more to be done in that field.
Most of the people that live in the rural areas are farm workers, they are called jornaleros. This is not a full-time job, they are hired depending on the production cycle. How it works is that they all gather in the plaza of the town and the owners or the agregado (farm manager) comes and pick the ones he likes. The women work mainly on cleaning houses. They usually live in really small places, with all of their family (mother, husband, kids, uncles, etc), some house don't even have a concrete floor. Most of them share their rooms with more than 3 people. This generates intrafamily violence.
Most of Calda’s economy comes from the Coffee plantation, because of its topography it doesn’t allow them to diversify their incomes like El Quindio and Risaralda did and grow other produce than just coffee. Also, in this region, the towns are far from each other, making communication difficult. The Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (http://www.federaciondecafeteros.org/particulares/es/quienes_somos/), has helped creating roads, bringing water, and aiding primary schools and health institutions. Through all these years they have improved the quality of life of this sector.
I believe that the path to create a social business in Caldas is through Coffee. It is a sector that most of the people know and subsist from it. One of the big problems I see is that in every vereda (each town is create by different veredas) they only have primary school. Their high school usually is far and the commute is dangerous, there the parents don't have the time and the means to take them. So here we can identify a huge problem.
I believe that because of the lack of education and communication these people are still using the same growing techniques from years ago. But if we bring education and teach them a new way, more sustainable and more profitable of how to take care of the land their incomes will increase, therefore their quality of life will improve. There is an organization call Fundacion Manuel Mejia (http://www.fmm.edu.co/), that start doing something similar, where they teach this community how to take agriculture to the next level. In this way they open their view from just being a jornalero to actually being owner or manager of a land. However because of lower coffee prices and the consequences of that price decrease on the economy this project has slowed done.
Right now there are approximate 500,000 families that subsist from Coffee, but their is another problem generating around this, this community is getting older and the new generation are not willing to work in the land. What causes having non-educated people in the streets, that end up creating violence. Because of that it is really important to integrate them in this education, showing them new possibilities for their land, like the University Zamorano (http://www.zamorano.edu/) does.
http://www.cafedecolombia.com/cafe/index.html (this link has most of the coffee organizations.