Las Manos del Cafe

Caldas, Colombia


Meet the needs of farmworkers, producers, and local organizations, while identifying and implementing solution to make employment within the coffee industry more socially viable.


Project Importance:

Farmworkers are among the most vulnerable and invisible partners in the coffee supply chain, yet – they are directly responsible for ensuring the success of each year’s harvest. Las Manos del Café is the first project of its kind that aims to develop and implement mechanisms targeted specifically at elevating the well-being and socio-economic livelihood of farmworkers. By ensuring the basic needs of farmworkers are being met, we are creating a more dignified and socially viable workforce in the coffee sector.

This project has been successfully implemented across three Cooperatives in Caldas, Colombia, with 9,099 direct beneficiaries, 6,574 of which are farmworkers and 2,525 are family members.

1. Cooperativa de Caficultores de Aguada

2. Cooperativa de Caficultores del Alto Occidente      

3. Cooperativa de Caficultores del Norte Project

Project Description: 

Las Manos del Café began as a pilot project (Aguadas Farmworkers) in 2016, guided by our hypothesis that by improving labor working conditions, providing better access to information, and establishing training programs for farmworkers, small-scale farm owners would then be able to attract and retain qualified labor, year after year.

As farm labor shortages is a reality for most coffee farmers worldwide, the pilot aimed to investigate how to alleviate this pressure by encouraging the dwindling labor force to remain in coffee production by providing them growth and development opportunities. A project focuses solely on addressing the needs of farm workers not only provides a viable solution in alleviating labor shortages but also contributes to enhancing coffee quality and quantity – benefiting all actors in the supply chain.


The project's strategy was created using the following guiding principles:

  1. Utilize a data-driven approach. A base line survey encompassing 118 producers and 180 workers was conducted to gain a deeper understanding of the existing farmworkers conditions. Results were then disseminated among farmers and workers to assist them in designing the implementation strategy.
  2. Listen to the workers. Farmworkers are their own protagonists and are the ones developing the solutions to their own problems.
  3. Work collaboratively. A wide range of project partners (roaster, importer, exporter, cooperatives, NGOs, communities) is imperative in ensuring diversity of perspective and project’s continuity.
  4. Secure long-term project financing. Guaranteed financing of 3-years offers trust and financial stability to beneficiaries.


Sustainability Impact Areas:

“Workers are the protagonist of their story and have created solutions to solve their own problems. Project implementers are simply the facilitators, workers are the solution makers.”

- Angela Pelaez, Sustainability Manager, RGC Americas.
Milestone Achievements:

Considering the social nature of this project, we utilize a third-party research group (CRECE- GRUPO QUANTIQ*), to measure impact both quantitatively and qualitatively. Below is a list of some major milestones achieved by the project, Las Manos del Café:
  1. Farmworkers have gained a newfound respect for their employment and acknowledge the importance of their work in the success of the entire value chain. This has led to quality of work improvements and therefore relationship dynamics improvements between worker and farmer have followed suit.

  2. Farmworkers’ quality of life has improved having received access to medical, visual, and odonatological services.

  3. Farmworkers now prefer to stay and work within their local municipalities, rather than having to travel in search of work.

  4. Some Farmworkers have begun participating in a coffee nurseries entrepreneurship program, which has provided them with additional incomes and beneficial skills.

  5. The project has been able to engage the young and showcase the possibility of manual labor being a respectable and dignified career choice.

  6. The project has contributed to the visibility of farm workers in the coffee value chain.

  7. Lastly, each year the project steering committee releases a publicly available monitoring report, that details the insights gained and lessons learned. 

*This group also conducted the characterization, base line survey, monitoring and manual guidelines of the project.


Aligning our Sustainability Efforts with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals:

Las Manos del Café supports the coffee industry's progress toward achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as project efforts directly address the following SDGs of:

Project Partners: 

Our ability to create meaningful, long-lasting change in the lives and communities of our coffee partners at origin is entirely dependent upon collaboration. Working hand-in-hand with like-minded individuals, toward a common goal equips us with the capacity to ensure our projects are truly making profound and positive change.

The partners of this project span multiple organizations in the coffee industry, with each partner committed to and responsible for spreading information regarding the achievements and lessons learned from the project among their networks. Project partners and organizations are the bridge of knowledge for this project and have helped ensure the success and impact of Las Manos del Café. We would like to acknowledge and thank the project partners of Las Manos del Café for their continued support and dedication to farmworkers. 


Project partners: SCA – Rainforest – UTZ, FTUSA, Catholic Relief Services, National Federation of Coffee Growers, Aguadas Cooperative, Alto Occidente Cooperative, Norte de Caldas Cooperative, Solidaridad, Fundacion +Rural, Keurig, Starbucks, RGC Coffee.

Project Deliverables:

Following three years of project implementation, data-collection, and oversight the Las Manos del Café steering committee published the 2020 Manual of Guidelines, open-access manual that provides producers and organizations a detailed approach in implementing best practices in order to promote better conditions for farmworkers. The manual offers readers a diverse portfolio of strategies, designed and proven to be effective.

Download study
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