As part of Fairtrade Fortnight, UK grocer Waitrose & Partners and John Lewis & Partners have committed to funding a new quality lab and training school to help secure a brighter future for Colombia’s next generation of coffee farmers. 

In support of the coffee producers in Colombia, the John Lewis Partnership, Bewley’s and Olam Speciality Coffee – in association with the Fairtrade Foundation, will be investing £100,000 over the next three years. This will be used to kickstart a new training and education program led by ASOPEP, a coffee cooperative made up of over 300 members in post-conflict zones such as Huila and Tolima, in the Southwest of the country. 

The new laboratory and training facilities will enable local communities to sell coffee of a higher grade and value. These quality facilities and training programs will give local growers access to a variety of techniques, from organic and sustainable farming, good agricultural practices, new coffee varieties and quality testing. 

Jemima Jewell, Corporate Responsibility Lead at The John Lewis Partnership, comments: “This new laboratory and training center will provide fantastic upskilling opportunities, that will help enthuse and inspire a new generation of farmers to carry on the tradition.

“In post-conflict zones like Huila and Tolima, the coffee industry can be a critical lifeline, one that has been put at risk through low pricing, a lack of modern infrastructure and limited access to education. By supporting local coffee farming communities through this collaboration, the long term aim is to improve incomes, create a more sustainable future for Colombia’s coffee producers and encourage younger generations into coffee growing.

Camilo Enciso Suarez, General Manager of ASOPEP, says: “Projects like the one supported by Waitrose & Partners and its suppliers are critical because it will help provide training and motivate younger generations. This has the potential to help sustain whole communities in Colombia that depend on coffee to make an income into the future.”

Euan Venters, Commercial Director at Fairtrade Foundation, comments: “This innovative program shows the value businesses can bring when they invest in protecting and developing future supply chains whilst working in direct partnership with farmers themselves. It is fantastic to see the John Lewis Partnership – which already sources all of its coffee as Fairtrade – go further by helping to address the real challenges farmers are facing and help scale up social, economic and environmental sustainability.”

In the next five years, the project aims to increase the breadth of members being trained in these areas, with a particular focus given to women and the next generation.

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.