Juan Solarte Obando, is the village name of the municipality of La Unión, where 17 years ago the Asociación de Productores Agropecuarios de La Unión, Nariño, Asprounion (Association of Agricultural Producers of La Unión, Nariño, Asprounion) was born, a non-profit association initially formed by 112 associates with small plots of high quality coffee.

This organization was created thanks to the analysis and deliberation of a group of female and male coffee growers who saw the need to join forces and work as a team to strengthen their work in the coffee value chain, as it was announced by Henry Tulcán, one of the founders of this great project.

As human beings we felt isolated, and every person needs to feel important, before their partner, before the system, before their family; the system told us: produce coffee and nothing else” said Paulino Díaz Ortega, first president of the Board of Directors of Asprounión. This collective feeling generated an awakening towards inclusion within the coffee growing guild; thanks to their strong organization, they initiated a social and political process to maintain their ideal, generating a movement that allowed them the first approaches with the Departmental, Municipal and National Governments, as well as the National Federation of Coffee Growers.

In 2003, the recognition as a union was achieved and they obtained resources from the National Coffee Fund, something unprecedented for Asprounión, since that year they managed to market more than one million kilos of ‘Pergamino Seco’ Coffee. As a team, they fulfilled their first goal, which was getting the guild to include them.

The message to the regional coffee growers was clear: with cohesion and awareness of collective well-being, it is possible to work. ASPROUNION began the path of learning how to buy, sell, and market coffee as an organization, something they previously did not know.

Luis Carlos Burbano Gómez, current manager of the association, who is a son of coffee farmers, finished his Agricultural Engineering studies at Universidad del
Valle in 1999; his years of study and work in Valle del Cauca allowed him to learn about the business development of this department, which compared to Nariño, and in particular with La Union, showed that the first had different types de factories, while La Union lacked entrepreneurship with a business projection.

Upon returning to his homeland, he listened to the radio and was able to learn about Asprounión, motivating him to join this organization as an associate, convinced of the potential of the region, of coffee and of the organization, helping to build the horizon of the association.

Asprounion team. We are collective change and progress. Photo: Manuel Noguera Salas

Its beginnings were not easy, since in 2004 the Association was near to closing, the financial problems were delicate, but the strong organization and team vision they had, allowed the process to continue thanks to the achievement of strategic alliances with other institutions and entities, but above all, to the unconditional support of its social base: the associates.

That is how, it is strengthened by the difficulties and starts to build its own path with the conviction that the development of the territory is in the hands of its inhabitants. From the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia, to Peru to the south of the continent, they have come to know the ASPROUNIÓN work as a reference for a business model socially inclusive, environmental and economically sustainable.

Basically, my role is to follow the guidelines of the organization around the empowerment of the coffee value chain and to respond to specialized markets for high quality coffee. All this is done with associates, sons and daughters and grandchildren of associates who are trained to form a professional team of the same organization, generating empowerment, development and a generational inclusion in new areas of work. ” said Burbano Gómez, who is also a coffee farmer.