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Caravela and Oikocredit: working together for sustainable and inclusive coffee

Caravela and Oikocredit: working together for sustainable and inclusive coffee

CARA-UK-093 (1).jpgTuesday 21 May 2024

Caravela is emerging as a beacon of innovation and progress in the coffee industry. In partnership with Oikocredit, the organisation is committed to education, gender equality and sustainability, shaping a better future for farming communities in Colombia and Ecuador.

Caravela: coffee with social impact

In 2000, Caravela was set up with the aim of importing products from Latin America to the UK. Realising that coffee was the most promising, they decided to focus on the specialty coffee market, which was just emerging at the time.

Alejandro Cadena, CEO and co-founder of Caravela, explains: “Early on, when we started looking into coffee, we realised that we couldn’t compete with the big guys. We didn’t have the scale or the capital that is required to compete with the Volcafe’s and the Ecom’s of this world. So going into the niche world of specialty coffee was a neat way to do not only a good business for us, but also to help other people and to find what we were looking for. We were able to kill three birds with one stone!”


Over the years, they have worked with nearly 2,500 farms in seven Latin American countries, focusing on environmental sustainability and aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 to combat the climate crisis. “We have a lot of farmers that are either neutral or negative carbon. By 2030 we want to work on becoming carbon climate positive by committing with our farms to plant even more trees so that any extra carbon that is being created by our supply chain can be offset.”

Caravela has a close relationship with Oikocredit, which acquired an equity stake in the company in 2019:“Our collaboration with Oikocredit has been very smooth, very open, very transparent, with direct communications where we meet face-to-face and we say how things are. They’ve supported us in everything we’ve been doing,” adds Alejandro.

A commitment to education and empowerment

At the heart of Caravela’s mission is a deep commitment to education and the empowerment of young people and women. Caravela’s Coffee Growers Education Programme (the Programa de Educación a Caficultores or PECA) illustrates this commitment by strengthening the skills of young people and encouraging their personal development, thereby ensuring the sustainability of the coffee industry.

Promoting gender equality and diversity

Caravela is also at the forefront of promoting gender equality and diversity. This recognition of the crucial role of women, both as farmers and as active members of farming families, demonstrates Caravela’s commitment to inclusion and equal opportunities. In addition, Caravela strives to create a respectful and diverse working environment, where differences are valued and celebrated, as demonstrated by its commitment to the LGBTQ+ community.

The impact of Caravela: three stories

Jairo López: a solid collaboration


The story of Jairo López, a Colombian coffee producer, is a perfect illustration of the positive impact of Caravela’s approach. Thanks to Caravela’s support, Jairo has been able to improve the quality of his coffee and get a fair wage for his work. “When we started growing coffee on the farm, we had in mind that it was going to be specialty coffee, to make a difference. So from the beginning we started doing the work to change things. In 2017 we met Caravela, who started paying us immediately for the physical quality of the coffee and also for the sensorial quality. So now we get a good price for our specialty coffee.”

This solid collaboration enables farmers like Jairo to prosper in a competitive market while preserving agricultural traditions and promoting sustainable development.

Wilfer Méndez: education for change

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Wilfer Méndez, Technical Manager in the Tolima region, embodies the spirit of change supported by Caravela. Supervising warehouses in different areas, Wilfer plays a key role in implementing the PECA educational programme. By combining his agronomic and administrative knowledge, he is helping to improve the living conditions of coffee growers, thereby increasing crop productivity and income.

His testimony underlines the vital importance of education in empowering farming communities. He explains: “I see many producers who, after they started selling Caravela coffee, have experienced many changes. The farms are very beautiful, they have a better income, they have better processes. They know more people and have learnt a lot. It fills us with pride to say that our programme, and all the education we provide to the producer, will really help the producers for many years to come.”

Didier Imbachi: confidence and gratitude


Didier Imbachi had little initial interest in the world of coffee, but his career path was transformed by a series of decisive encounters that awakened in him a passion for the product. Despite initial obstacles, Didier found crucial support from mentors and colleagues who encouraged him to deepen his knowledge of coffee in Bogota, leading to his appointment as quality coordinator at Caravela’s coffee processing plant in Armenia, Colombia.

Didier has been with Caravela for 11 years and acknowledges that this experience goes far beyond the professional sphere. For him, Caravela represents a ‘school of life’ where he has consolidated his confidence and honed his skills. His yearning for financial stability is deeply rooted in gratitude to his family, reflecting his father’s dedication to their coffee farm. As Didier himself points out: “I really appreciate everything that has come into my life... My goal is to be well established and to help my parents, just as they tried so hard for me.”

A sustainable and inclusive future for coffee

In a context marked by the challenges of climate change and economic volatility, Caravela, with its investment from Oikocredit, is positioning itself as a pioneer of innovation and progress in the coffee industry. Its commitment to education, equality and diversity reflects a bold vision for a future where coffee is not only high quality, but also sustainable and inclusive. Through strong partnerships such as the one with Oikocredit, Caravela is paving the way for positive transformation in farming communities, shaping a better future for everyone involved in the coffee value chain.

Interviews conducted October, 2023

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