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Colombian coffee farming saves 850 million liters of water per year

19 July, 2018
Colombian coffee farming saves 850 million liters of water per year

The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation’s (FNC) work to improve Colombian coffee farming, which directly benefits smallholder producers with a sustainability approach, is being reflected in improved environmental impacts and water saving. A study by the National Coffee Research Center (Cenicafé), the FNC’s scientific arm, showed that the coffee sector saves about 850 million liters of water a year.

The sampling took place between 2016 and 2017 in 66,000 farms, and showed that development of new technologies and more efficient methods for coffee wet processing have contributed to substantial water saving.

Today over 30% of coffee wet mills are ecological and over 50% are in transition towards this technology. In addition, small coffee producers are betting on the segment of specialty coffee, which is better paid in the international market for its special features and use of good environmental practices.

So more and more producers are following ecological wet processing practices, leaving behind the traditional washing method, such as classifying and washing canals, and using methods such as tub-tanks or state-of-the-art equipment such as Becolsub and Ecomill®.

A constant work to save water

Since its beginning, Colombian coffee farming had been using the traditional method for washing coffee, which used an average 40 L of water per kilogram of dry parchment coffee (dpc).

Gradually other methods consuming less water began to be used, such as:
1. Pulp removal without water.
2. Transport of pulp without water.
3. Washing and classification in tub-tank, Becolsub or Ecomill®.

In the 90s, Cenicafé began to develop technologies that saved more water in coffee washing, and by 1993 it already promoted the use of tub-tanks, which enable to wash and classify coffee in the same fermenter tank, using as much as 4 L of water per kg of dpc (that is, 10 times less than with the traditional method).

In 1995, Cenicafé made available to producers the Becolsub equipment, which consumes only 0.7 to 1 L of water per kg of dpc, with a 90-91% reduction in pollution discharged.

The Becolsub technology has even been granted several recognitions.

More recently, the FNC, thanks to Cenicafé’s constant work, launched the Ecomill® technology (patented and manufactured in three models: with capacity for 500, 1500 and 3000 kg/hour of washed coffee), which consumes only 0.35 to 0.5 L of water per kg of dpc and reduces pollution by 100%, by applying the resulting wastewater to the very coffee farm.

Ambitious projects multiply water saving

On the other hand, the FNC continues working in large-scale projects such as Manos al Agua, a public-private partnership, which have contributed to better water resource management in coffee regions.

Manos al Agua was implemented in 25 river basins of the same number of municipalities in the departments of Antioquia, Caldas, Cauca, Nariño and Valle del Cauca, and benefited a large number of farms with water savers, ecological wet mills and water treatment systems, among other interventions.

For Buencafé, it is of vital importance to have the FNC’s backing and Cenicafé’s research, as the coffee institutions’ joint work enables us to provide the whole world with quality products, which add value to Colombian coffee growers and aim at balanced, equitable and sustainable production.

Colombian coffee farming saves 850 million liters of water per year. April 2018. Colombia. Al Grano. Retrieved from https://www.federaciondecafeteros.org/algrano-fnc-es/index.php/comments/el_sector_cafetero_ahorra_850_millones_de_litros_de_agua_al_ano/

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