This month we catch up with Aurora, Director of Anei Coffee. In the heart of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Serranía del Perijá, Anei stands as a beacon of community, sustainability, and cultural richness. Comprising of over 600 families from four indigenous communities, this organization was born from the visionary leadership of Aurora Izquierdo, the first Arhuaca native woman from the community of Yewrwa to study in Bogotá. We speak to Aurora about the remarkable journey of Anei, exploring its multifaceted initiatives that extend from eco-sustainable programs to gender equality and youth empowerment.
Can you share a bit about your background and how you came to be involved in the world of coffee?
Coffee has been part of the indigenous culture in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta for many years, as a member of the Arhuaco community I found in coffee a vehicle for generating well-being in the communities and also to carry a message of care for Mother Earth around the world.
Anei Coffee is known for its commitment to environmental responsibility. Could you provide insights into why this theme is so important and discuss the steps Anei is taking to create a more sustainable future?
Our thinking, as Arhuaco indigenous people, is always framed within the respect and care of Mother Earth, the rivers, the mountains and the soil to help reestablish that universal order and harmony that are a fundamental part of our work on the planet as ancestral indigenous people. In this sense, we have structured management plans aimed at protecting ecosystems and, currently, we manage the implementation of initiatives such as Sierra Sagrada, focused on various components, such as carbon capture through the establishment of agroforestry systems and reforestation of microbasins and areas at risk of erosion; the formation of local seed banks and networks of collectors; implementation of the use of clean energy (solar panels and rainwater collection) and an innovation centre for the transformation and use of native species from a sustainable perspective.
Before founding Anei, what did you work on and how did your previous experiences prepare you for his role as Director?
Before founding Anei, I was a community leader in Arhuaca. Passion and commitment to working for my community and turning my dreams into reality have been fundamental to carrying out my work at Anei.
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an extraordinary region. If you only had one day there, what would be on your list of must-see and do places?
One day is not enough to enjoy all the wonderful things in the Sierra, but first, I would share a good coffee with my family and lifelong friends, people I carry in my heart and who have been fundamental to Anei’s growth. Whenever I can, I take the opportunity to take a dip in the cold and crystalline waters of the Yewrwa rivers, the territory where I was born.
Anei has a unique initiative called the ‘Anei Youth’ Programme. Could you tell us more about this program and its impact on youth?
Jóvenes Anei is an initiative aimed at supporting generational continuity. We support young people in their training studies and later create spaces for their direct involvement in productive, administrative, and commercial processes, among others, in the organization. On the other hand, we promote the active participation of young people in different scenarios to strengthen their ties with the community, the territory, and coffee.
How do you see the future of Anei? Are there any new projects or changes on the horizon that you are excited to share with us?
In Anei, we are always dreaming of how we can convey our message of caring for Mother Earth to many more people. Therefore, we have developed a matrix designed to transcend for seven generations, where we weave the future in community and harmony with nature. We dream of a future with an agro-industrial park that is a model of sustainability and innovation in coffee and cocoa. Still, our main dream is to make Anei a national and international reference for ancestral agriculture and care for Mother Earth.
We would like to know what you like to do in your free time.
I am always thinking about Anei, but I enjoy spending time in the garden, sharing time with my grandchildren, and teaching them the importance of caring for Mother Earth so that they become guardians of life and always keep their hearts clean.
What is your favorite coffee variety and preferred processing method?
More than a specific variety, processes in coffee attract my attention, those in which producers collect only completely ripe beans and process them into cherries for several days until they reach their optimal point.
How do you like to drink your coffee?
I take my coffee dark, without sugar, of course. I like a medium roast with balanced acidity. Although I am not a taster, I enjoy discovering hidden notes on the palate that evoke different places in the Sierra.