Growing coffee to create a green belt as a buffer zone to protect the biodiversity in the Serranía de San Lucas in Colombia

The initiative is a community effort to promote sustainable coffee practices to prevent deforestation and hunting around conservation areas

Photo of Carlos Andres Valderrama Vasquez
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Eligibility Criteria

  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Carlos Andrés Valderrama Vásquez MV. MSc.

Initiative's representative date of birth

June 3 / 1977

Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • Colombia

Headquarters location: city

Bogota D.C.

Where are you making a difference?

Serrania de San Lucas has been proposed as a protected area and comprises 470856 hectares. The project is located in the buffer zone in the municipality of Santa Rosa del Sur, Bolivar, in Colombia

Website or social media url(s)

Date Started

March / 2017

Project Stage

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan going forward)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €50k - €100k

Organization Type

  • Nonprofit/NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

WebConserva is a Colombian NGO dedicated to conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems in Colombia. It creates novel strategies to mitigate the pressure on biodiversity including loss of habitats. The goal is to reduce hunting and human-wildlife conflict by scaling conservation and wild carnivores-friendly coffee production to generate alternative income. The “Aha!” moment happened when we visited farms in the Serrania de San Lucas that were having conflict with wild carnivores that were eating their cattle. We were also introduced to coffee growers that were struggling due to low coffee prices. We had a series of meetings and designed a strategy with the community to stop deforestation and hunting and improve the livelihoods of people

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Serrania de San Lucas is a critical biologically diverse corridor that provides key habitat for large carnivores such as Andean bears (Tremarctos ornatus; VU) and jaguars (Panthera onca, NT), but it is currently threatened by the increasing expansion of coca plantations and pastures for cattle ranching. The lack of roads and knowledge to produce good quality products has made it difficult for the communities to access markets outside the region, and commercialize products and get better prices

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

WebConserva is working with coffee roasters and local communities that are producing Arabic coffee around the Serrania de San Lucas to promote sustainable practices to prevent deforestation and hunting, minimize watershed contamination and improve the income of coffee growers. We are setting up a production business model for communities living around well conserved areas that promote the establishment of sustainable crops around the conservation area to serve as an agricultural green belt buffer zone adjacent to the forest. For that purpose, we are currently establishing with the community practices, protocols and procedures to improve the quality of the coffee and to stop deforestation and hunting. We are training coffee growers to use sustainable practices and monitoring the deforestation and biodiversity with camera traps around the coffee producing area. We are also proposing a Coffee Processing Centre for the region that will serve as a training facility and to centralize and standardize production to improve the quality of the coffee. Lastly, we designed a communication strategy to create awareness and access specialized markets that will provide better prices

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

This project innovates because it is developing a sustainable business model and a communication strategy to create biodiversity awareness and commercialize products based on strong and long lasting relationships between farmers, coffee roasters and biodiversity. Additionally, the project is located in a critical conservation area and is based on Colombian coffee, that is the traditional product of Colombia, with an excellent reputation worldwide. The project seeks to integrate biodiversity conservation with production best practices and the improvement of the community livelihoods. It will serve as a differentiator to enhance the region´s development and to accomplish the UN sustainable development goals

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

Our project engages people and organizations across multiple sectors including: communities living in biodiverse forests; local and global non-profits focused on biodiversity conservation and community development; private companies that commercialize the products; and the government to promote coffee exports. Key players in our project are coffee growing families living by the forests of Serrania de San Lucas (protect forests and produce coffee), WebConserva (coordinates activities and integrates the stakeholders), Urbania Café (Roaster that commercializes the coffee), Procolombia (Government entity that promotes exports from Colombia) and AtmosClear Canada Inc, (Canadian company attracting investors to conservation opportunities in Latin America through a Jaguar Legacy Fund). However, we are actively looking for new partners and investors to scale the project to include more producer families and enhance livelihoods while nurturing and protecting forests and biodiversity

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

The project has yielded several positive impacts. The project has assisted 10 families to receive firm prices, increase their income from coffee production by 20% and resulted in the sustainable management of 200 hectares of biodiverse forest with zero deforestation. As part of the communication campaign, three different roasters developed their own brands and marketing strategies based on our coffee to create awareness and to promote the business model. The coffee roasters are also helping to train the coffee growers to improve the quality of coffee. This year, through Urbania Café we achieved our first coffee export shipment to the USA. On the conservation side, the forest/ecosystems surrounding the coffee plantations continue to be healthy ecosystems as demonstrated with camera traps that have registered the presence of critically endangered species including Blue-billed Curassow (Crax alberti; CR) and carnivores like Andean bears (Tramarctos ornatus) and pumas (Puma concolor)

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

In order to scale the project, we need to standardize the coffee production to access specialized markets and for that purpose we intend to establish a Coffee Processing Centre. The Centre will provide training to standardize the quality, reduce environmental impact, and scale production over the next 5 years to engage 200 families to produce 500 tons of parchment coffee each year. To increase demand, we will begin marketing the coffee in Canada and Europe. The project expects to increase income for the families, while conserving 4000 hectares of forest and maintain carbon in trees. It will also treat waste-water effectively and facilitate the transition to organic coffee production to avoid contamination with pesticides and residues

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

Colombia is a biodiversity hotspot and the Serrania de San Lucas is a mountain range that provides key habitat for large focal vertebrates such as Andean bears, jaguars, wattled guans (Aburria aburri; NT), Dantas (Tapirus terrestris; VU) and West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus; VU). This initiative is a shared value project that provides the local communities with a better livelihood and maintains healthy ecosystems and a vibrant biological corridor benefitting not only Colombia but also Central and South America. It entails the commitment and participation of all the stakeholders including responsible farming by communities helping to prevent deforestation and protect biodiversity

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

To build on successes over the past few years with coffee production and marketing, WebConserva has developed a 5-year investment plan to scale coffee production from 10 to 200 families. The plan includes training, capacity building, installing a coffee processing plant, biodiversity monitoring and transitioning production to organic. Funding for improving production methods, coffee quality and for conservation is expected to be derived from the sales of this speciality coffee. Grant funding is being sought to fund the initial improvements and eventually the project can be self-funded. The project is of interest to the Jaguar Legacy Fund, which is being founded by AtmosClear Canada Inc, to invest in projects throughout the jaguar corridor

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

Carlos Valderrama MSc, project director, veterinarian specialized in large carnivore’s conservation. Cristina Tingle MSc, project coordinator, graphic designer specialized in food styling. Philip Tingle, project financial advisor, specialized as international finance executive. Julian Gamboa, Urbania Café partner and coffee expert. Sid Embree, AtmosClear, specialized in business and project development and financing. The team will evolve to include more local researchers and coffee growers

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Word of mouth

Evaluation results

8 evaluations so far


Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Yes/maybe - 25%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%


5 —Absolutely! It’s crystal clear how the solution is directly contributing to preserving and/or restoring biodiversity. - 62.5%

4—Yes, it establishes a clear connection to biodiversity. - 37.5%

3—Somewhat, the entry speaks to biodiversity but the direct impact is not well established and/or it is focused on a single species without considering its impact on the broader ecosystem - 0%

2—Not really, the connection to biodiversity is weak - 0%

1—No. The entry does not reference the solution’s impact on biodiversity. - 0%

3. 3) Is this entry IMPACTFUL?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 71.4%

4- Yes, I think so. - 14.3%

3- Maybe. - 14.3%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

4. 4) Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 62.5%

4- Yes, I think so. - 25%

3- Maybe. - 12.5%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

5. 5) Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 62.5%

4- Yes, I think so. - 25%

3- Maybe. - 0%

2- Probably not. - 12.5%

1- No. - 0%


5 -Yes, absolutely! - 57.1%

4- Yes, I think so. - 28.6%

3- Maybe. - 14.3%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

7. 7) Does this entry value COLLABORATION WITH OTHER STAKEHOLDERS in its approach?

5- Yes, absolutely! - 71.4%

4- Yes, I think ko. - 14.3%

3- Maybe. - 14.3%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

8. 8) FEEDBACK – Highlights

INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions - 33.3%

IMPACT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 100%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: You have a thoughtful plan for growth and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 16.7%

VIABIBLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 83.3%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You value thinking around how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 50%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: You have a clearly defined plan on how to maximize shared value across multiple sectors and stakeholders - 50%

WRITING STYLE: Your writing style is concise, descriptive, clear, and specific - 50%

Other option - 33.3%

9. 9) FEEDBACK - Areas for Improvement

INNOVATION: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 100%

IMPACT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 0%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 33.3%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 33.3%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: your plan can benefit from more thought on how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 33.3%

WRITING STYLE: Try to be more concise, descriptive, clear, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 66.7%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming - 33.3%

Other option - 0%

Attachments (1)


Conserva coffee profile


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