Growing True Jaguar Coffee in Serranía de San Lucas

By Carlos Valderrama, DVM

The village of Serranía is a tiny community, a cluster of wood and lamina houses around a dirt soccer pitch high in the mountains on the edge what will become one of Colombia’s newest protected areas of jaguar habitat: San Lucas. The few dozen residents of Serranía—all internally displaced eight years ago by the violence of Colombia’s civil war at the time—and their children live a modest life. The community’s only significant industry is coffee production. Previously, the hills around Serranía were planted with coca for cocaine, but community members recently discovered that they can make a better living growing coffee, thanks to the presence of jaguars in the forests of San Lucas.

Óscar Pabón, the owner of the coffee plantation, has helped secure Panthera’s endorsement for the community’s coffee. Not only is it extraordinarily high quality coffee, grown without the significant use of herbicides in what is close to an ideal climate for coffee cultivation, but the community has also worked hard to make their plantation hospitable to wildlife, and especially the jaguars that live in the surrounding forests, which are monitored by Panthera.

But there’s more. The community is now also beginning to plant avocados, another good crop, to shade the coffee plants and improve the quality even further. And they have committed to restoring forest in areas that were previously cut for agriculture and cocaine production. These restored forests will be a home for the threatened jaguars, spectacled spider monkeys, two sloth species, brown spider monkeys, harpy eagles and all the biodiversity within the jungle here.

Responsible coffee farming can help build a buffer around the core jaguar habitat in the center of an eventual national park in San Lucas. Because the coffee farmers can now say that their coffee is true Jaguar Coffee, with the Panthera logo as part of the branding on the bag, they are also able to charge a premium of around 10 percent. This is 10 percent more income than they would have without the jaguars of San Lucas. This alignment of the needs of the jaguar with the economic needs of the people who live alongside it is the Panthera model, and the only way to save these great cats.

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