Coffee Culture in a Cultural Landscape in Colombia

Adjunct Professor Peter Bridgewater spent a week in Late May in Pereira, Colombia, as a member of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Task Force on Indigenous and Local knowledge (ILK).  The meeting was hosted by the Humboldt Institute of Colombia, and planned how the Participatory Mechanism will be made operational.  This Participatory Mechanism was agreed at the IPBES Plenary in March, and is a web-based mechanism to try and involve Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities to the maximum extent in the Assessments and other products of IPBES.  It is being further considered by the decision-making bodies of IPBES and will hopefully be implemented soon.

Bridgewater writes:

Great progress was made, as well as further developing ideas and ways and means for ILK to be brought to the table alongside “science” in the IPBES products.  One key way is to move to more neutral terms such as Knowledge, which encompasses the understandings from many different world views.  That these discussions are being held at all is great progress, as the “scientific world” continues to have doubts about dealing with any form of knowledge which is not value-laden (Yes, I do understand the irony of what I have written and, yes, it was deliberate).

The setting of the meeting itself was interesting, as Pereira is in the World Heritage inscribed Coffee Cultural Landscape (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1121 ), very much a location using traditional ways to manage a landscape both productive but retaining strong biodiversity conservation potential at the same time.  During the meeting we visited a typical Coffee plantation and had first-hand experience of tracing the coffee from seedling to roasting, and of course sampling!  Thais was a great opportunity to see the roots of an industry now grown industrial in scale, but where traditional keeps the product true to origin.  While the landscape has extensive coffee, banana and Avocado plantations there are many remnant patches of pre-settlement vegetation – especially including bamboo thickets (Chusquea sp among others), showing that China is not the only place on the planet for this overgrown grass!  After preparing and sampling coffee, and learning to use epithets more familiar with wine tasting to describe the flavours, we held the final session in the field – a great way to finish.

Tourist hint:  if travelling to Pereira in the rainy season take flights that arrive in the afternoon… :)

Photo: Adjunct Professor Peter Bridgewater separates coffee beans.