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  • From coffee to avocados in Cauca, Colombia
Youth employment
Food security

From coffee to avocados in Cauca, Colombia

From coffee to avocados in Cauca, Colombia
Project impact
Small coffee farmers
Avocado growers
Tons of avocados per year
Employees working in the factory
From coffee to avocados in Cauca, Colombia

The Cauca region, a complex area 

Country coordinator Jaap Duijvestein explains: ‘The Cauca region is ethnically very diverse, the FARC was active there, a lot of people live in poverty and there is a lot of illegal cocaine cultivation which means crime is around the corner. What makes Carlos’ approach so interesting, is that he is working with this diverse population. Among his coffee growers are single women, former FARC fighters, indigenous people and youth.’ Carlos has set up a special programme ‘Spirit of Peace’ for former FARC fighters, who were given a piece of land to make a living but have no background in coffee growing. A lot of youngsters are seduced by the fast money of the illegal practices surrounding the cultivation of cocaine and Carlos tries to give them another perspective. Through vocational training with modern methods and tools, and in close collaboration with schools in the area, he tries to interest and inspire the youth in growing coffee.

Setting up Social Avocado

Cauca is also an excellent region to grow avocados. Since it is a fresh fruit, large amounts of water are needed. Thanks to the abundant rainfall in the area, cultivation is possible without drying out the soil. Colombia’s government is helping former FARC fighters to start avocado farms and supports small-scale coca farmers to abandon their illegal cultivation and switch to avocados. Carlos has set up the company Social Avocado which follows the same business philosophy as ASCAFÉ. He helps the farmers to improve their harvest, shares knowledge, provides materials and creates access to the European market. The avocados are currently sourced from about 120 growers.

Sharing knowledge   

PUM was asked to share knowledge in the start-up phase of Social Avocado. PUM expert Lou van Noorden, who has a background in engineering, started giving advice online and visited the client on location in September 2022. He explains: ‘We are talking about fresh fruit and that means the product has to be sorted, classified, packaged and transported. This has to be done in a controlled way so that food safety is not compromised and European standards are met. I helped to define the process, to set up the factory design and to put in place an organisation model. In the meantime, food safety certification has been received for export to Europe, an attractive and promising market. The first contracts with customers are underway.’

Carlos Arturo Lopez
General Manager, ASCAFÉ

“I see it as my duty to try to maintain the continuity of the agricultural sector and educate the next generation. Through vocational training and youth education we teach about coffee and avocado growing. I am grateful that PUM has supported me with their expertise to set up this new business in cultivating and exporting avocados. This will give more people access to a fair and steady income from agriculture.”


The avocado facility will process the first harvest in the summer. In five years’ time, 480 farmer families will develop about 3,000 tons per year, and more than 90 people will work in the factory. By sharing his knowledge, PUM expert Lou has made an active and substantial contribution to the economic development of the Cauca region. The coffee and avocado plantations are also expected to reduce illegal crops like cocaine.