Lavazza has launched its first docufilm, “Coffee Defenders, a Path from Coca to Coffee” on Amazon Prime Video in Italy, the US and the UK. The Docufilm is directed by Oscar Ruiz Navia, one of the best-known voices in contemporary Colombian cinema.
The documentary tells the true story of Johana, a young Colombian woman who lost everything during the armed conflict with the FARC guerrillas, but managed to take back control of her own life and those of her six children. Despite the conflict, she was determined to continue to live in her community – the fertile and unspoilt coffee growing region of Meta in the foothills of the Andes – where the Colombian government gave farming families like Johana’s back the land previously used to grow illegal crops in 2013.
Driven by hope and an unshakeable belief in a better future, Johana was reborn through her work at her newly thriving coffee farm and hers is a story of the emancipation of women and courage. The coffee plant is a symbol of her rebirth and Johana takes it with her on the journey from her home to Costa Rica, where it will be preserved in the Cartago Agricultural Centre.
Johana is accompanied on her journey by Alexandra Roca, a reporter who has written with great sensitivity about various issues affecting more than 14 countries worldwide, ranging from women’s rights to movements supporting indigenous communities. After returning to Colombia to document the country’s recovery after the armed conflict, she helps Johana tell her own story of difficulties and hope. Step by step, their journey takes the film’s two protagonists through scenes of incredible natural beauty in South America, listening to numerous eyewitness testimonies on a path of rebirth and transition from war to peace.
“In that period people grew coca,” remembers our protagonist Johana. “I was afraid, but in the end, I said to myself “I’m going back, because this is my home and I can’t abandon it. It doesn’t matter if they want to kill me, let them, but I have to go back home.”
The Lavazza Foundation has been working in the Meta region, Johana’s homeland, since 2015, on a sustainable development programme which has improved the social and economic conditions of over one hundred farming families, including our protagonist. It has also helped them bring the coffee plantations back to life by planting over one million coffee bushes and training them to use good farming practices. This includes teaching them new techniques to fight the effects of climate change. As a result, productivity per hectare has risen twofold and the production of high-quality coffee has been encouraged and certified by the NGO Rainforest Alliance, an international organisation that guarantees the socio-environmental sustainability of agricultural production. In addition, the Foundation has helped small farms plant around 13,000 fruit trees, which offers farmers an additional source of income complementary to the one they make from coffee production, to increase revenue and to support the food security of families.
The programme in the Meta region has been developed with a special focus on promoting women’s rights as women provide up to 70% of the coffee production workforce, but just 25% of farms have female managers.
This is just one example of the 24 projects which have been supported so far by the Lavazza Foundation, which was established in 2004 and has a presence in 17 countries, across three continents, with over 97,000 beneficiaries.
“For almost 20 years, the Lavazza Foundation has been playing an active role in coffee-producing countries with sustainable development programmes, working in close contact with coffee growers and inspired by the sense of responsibility that permeates Lavazza’s approach to the communities and areas in which it operates.” said Mario Cerutti, chief institutional relations & sustainability officer at Lavazza. “The documentary tells one of many stories about the protagonists of our projects, expressed in contemporary language with the help of an outstanding partner like Amazon, and all in the spirit of Goal Zero – Promote the Message, the Sustainable Development Goal that we have added to the 17 Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda, with the aim of engaging people in a debate on sustainability”.
Director Oscar Ruiz Navia, said: “I think this film represents a special project, one that I have been asked to work on because of my experience as a documentary and fiction director, which is why I was happy from the outset to accept this challenge. During shooting, I learned so much about this country’s history by listening to the testimony of so many people. For this reason, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of “Coffee Defenders, a path from coca to coffee.”
Alexandra Roca, filmmaker, said: “This project represents many things, but I would say that the main meaning it carries is that change comes from within, and Johana has been a true example in that regard. I have learned many lessons from her because of her resilience and perseverance. Her survival skills have turned her into an independent and clever woman. That, to me, is what stands out most from this ﬁlm and it’s true meaning.”
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