Flor Alba Valencia Burbano, Guillermo León Valencia Burbano, José Antonio Gualguan Espada. Three different faces that share a common interest: producing coffee. The three speak of discipline, dedication, love and gratitude for coffee, which has allowed them to raise their families, the most important thing for them.
The farm of Flor Alba is called Chirimoyo, and it is located in the village of Bermejal, in the municipality of Buesaco, Nariño. She is the head of her family and has two children: a 17-year-old girl, who is about to graduate from school, and a seven-year-old boy. Her house is 40 minutes from the city’s centre, via a broken road, which is compensated with the tranquility and beauty of the coffee landscape.
The house crowns the steep terrain where Flor Alba has built a mesh to grow passion fruit; in addition, she plants coffee under these trees, taking advantage of the shade produced by the large leaves of this tropical fruit. “In this area I would go half and half, cultivating mostly corn. One day I decided to take my chances, I sowed granadilla and in the first harvest it went very well, I was able to get a loan to buy the land. My brothers insisted that I grow coffee, until I realized that I could plant it under the passion fruit.
First I planted 2,700 coffee trees, those are the ones that are now producing special coffee, then I planted another 1,300 in another lot that I bought with the money from the first coffee harvest, which was a year ago. Quality coffee is paid very well, the key to obtaining good coffee is technical advice during all stages of cultivation, it is a long process that needs a lot of dedication. My dream is to produce more coffee to leave something to my children, I want them not to suffer like I did, I want to give them their studies so that they can move forward. That is my dream, to see them go forward.”
The face of Guillermo León always shows a smile, although he has lived through difficult moments. Now he says he feels more calm and strengthened because producing special coffee with adequate technical advice has diminished the risks and the fear that the coffee will be lost; moreover, he feels qualified to advise his friends and that they can obtain high quality coffee.
The first of Guillermo Leon’s experiences with coffee was at age seven and it was through his grandfather, who planted coffee trees of tall stature, and for this reason he built a ladder so that the children could harvest the coffee and that way adults wouldn’t spoil it. 50 years have passed since then.
Guillermo León is preparing to participate in the Cup of Excellence competition, “Last year I competed and was among the top 15. I am excited to take the first place, since I have corrected the mistakes of last year’s coffee production. I want to leave the memory in my family that I fought and fought to be recognized. The prize money does not interest me as much as the recognition of the effort I make every day. That would be beautiful, but it’s already happening, I’m already recognized, because I receive visitors from all parts of the world: Japanese, Korean, North American, English. It fills me with pride.”
José Antonio Gualguan’s face reveals a silent personality, timid and above all hardworking. When he speaks, he does so in a calm manner and has a lot of joy in his role in positioning the Buesaco coffee internationally —in 2010 he was the winner of the Cup of Excellence contest—. He remembers very well the day he decided to plant coffee, as this grain changed his life: he was going through a bad economic time, he had 6 small children and he also had health problems after working in a brickyard.
At some point, he considered going to work in Cali, but he did not, he was not going to leave the field, where, despite the difficulties, he lived quietly. With a lot of effort, and betting on the quality of the coffee, he went forward. “I’ve had to learn a lot, but I have achieved it thanks to technical assistance. Producing quality coffee is a difficult job, it has its risks. I have lost many lots/crops for different reasons, but in spite of that I am still convinced that the best thing to do is to grow quality coffee. It’s a matter of love and dedication.”