Third school building project announced for Nariño in Colombia

Volcafe’s Colombia office operates the Carcafe Foundation set up to get involved in sustainability projects in coffee-growing communities in the country. Over twenty years it has supported more than 10,000 families with projects supporting farmers and farms including coffee plantation, post-harvesting infrastructure and even home improvements, always supported by technical assistance from our agronomists. Carcafe Foundation also works to improve local schools with infrastructure, IT or help accessing grant money.

Carcafe Foundation has a long-term partnership with the Costa Foundation, the charitable arm of the successful UK roaster Costa Coffee. And now we’re delighted to announce that we have approval to build our third school together in Nariño, in the south west of Colombia. Nariño is still recovering from years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups.

The project will replace eight classrooms in an existing school in the municipality of Taminango in Nariño, in an area called Remolino. This area, approximately 500 metres above sea level, is extremely dry and class temperatures in the school that we’ll be rebuilding can reach 35°C in the morning, and even higher in the afternoon. In addition, the school has asbestos roofs which are now banned in Colombia. The project will rebuild these classrooms deploying ‘bioclimatic’ architectural practices that design buildings based on local climate and making use of environmental sources to improve comfort, aesthetics and learning.

The first conversations between the Costa Foundation and Volcafe began in 2014 when Costa Foundation Director Piers Blake approached Nicolas Rueda, who was the Carcafe GM at the time. Piers invited Carcafe, as part of Volcafe, to participate in the development of a proposal for a school project in a coffee growing region in Colombia.

An internal competition at Carcafe yielded several options. As a trained architect, project manager Vivian Vasquez was able to present an architectural design for a school in San Lorenzo in Nariño that had problems with 100-year-old premises that were in danger of collapsing. This proposal was selected by Carcafe and put forward to Costa, who approved it.

Vivian explains “For all school projects, we had to look for local contributions of at least 50%. In our case we got resources from the Nariño governor’s office, from the municipalities’ majors’ offices and from the school communities themselves. Estate entities contributed with funds to help the construction. The school communities contributed with funds and also in-kind donations – supplying the labor to demolish the old premises and build new gardens.”

That school was built and opened in San Lorenzo, Nariño, in 2016.

The second school project was in La Union. Again, the architectural design was prepared by Vivian Vasquez with the support of structural design input from professional civil engineers. The project team selected an old state school where floors and walls were crackling up because the terrain was eroding and premises were about to fall apart. Country Manager Sebastian Pinzon signed the agreement with Costa Foundation in 2018.

The second and third schools are agricultural schools, where students graduate with dual diplomas: a secondary degree and an agricultural technician degree. This helps ensure rural student do not leave the countryside seeking education and employment in the cities, as many tend to do, and are therefore lost to the coffee communities. The dual qualification ensures that many now choose to stay in coffee farming helping to secure its long term success and sustainability.

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