No 30

Colombia´s Coffee Cultural Landscape (PCC), why is it Unique in the World?

March, 2012

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Colombia´s Coffee Cultural Landscape  (PCC), why is it Unique in the World?

UNESCO included the PCC in the list of World Heritage Site after evaluating a range of factors. With this nomination, it became the first live and productive coffee cultural landscape in the world to be included in UNESCO´s list. Get to know the reasons why its cultural legacy will be preserved for future generations from now on.

During the 35th session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO)  World Heritage Committee, held in June 2011 in Paris, Colombia´s Coffee Cultural Landscape (PCC) was included in the list of heritage sites of humanity. Said acknowledgment demonstrated that the PCC is an outstanding example of a productive and sustainable cultural landscape which adapts to geographic and natural characteristics that are peerless in the world, and which has developed exceptional culture and social capital.

The declared Colombian region encompasses an area that comprises 47 municipalities in the departments of Caldas, Quindío, Risaralda and Valle del Cauca. 24.000 coffee farms are located there, in which nearly 80.000 people live.

The PCC is an outstanding example of a productive cultural landscape, the result of efforts made by several generations of farming families who, for over 100 years, have accumulated knowledge to adapt coffee agriculture to the rough environmental conditions in their small plots of land. By doing so, they have achieved one of the best products in the world and have developed a strong cultural identity. Rural dwellers of the region have also established exceptional models of collective action around the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation and its Departmental Committees, and have thus built a legitimate and active institutionalism that carries out ambitious programs known as Sustainability that Matters®.  All of this is framed by innovating practices in the management and protection of natural resources.

Coffee agriculture became the main source of livelihood for the PCC inhabitants. The high degree of specialization in the coffee production and the requirements of manual labor associated with coffee agriculture in high mountains have contributed to create small owner communities that over time generated an ever more dynamic rural sector. Through agriculture, process and trade of coffee, a sustainable source of income for producers and their families was created. This situation facilitated the creation and spread of domestic markets and nourished the development of a coffee culture.

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What criteria were taken into account to declare the PCC?

Generational, historical and family human effort in the production of excellent quality coffee under a sustainable human development framework: This region has for over worked to produce high quality coffee. This explains the high degree in which agriculture has permeated into the social and cultural life of the region’s inhabitants. The PCC is located on the slopes of mountain chains belonging to the Central and Western ranges of the Colombian Andes.

Coffee culture for the world: The importance of coffee agriculture in the region has transcended the economic spectrum. A series of traditions or cultural and social manifestations have been developed around this activity, which have been passed on from generation to generation, such as myths or legends, culinary know-how, traditional festivities, traditional places, handcrafts, typical attires, literature, music, painting and photography among others.

Strategic social capital built around an institution: The coffee institutional model developed by the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) has proved to be effective to gain access to markets through the development of a complete system of commercialization, storing, technical assistance, research and technological development, institutional support and promotion.

Relationship between tradition and technology to guarantee quality and sustainability of the product: The continuous improvement of the agricultural techniques has been made possible by the development of a knowledge circuit around the coffee grower and his productive activity. This circuit is made up of different institutions such as Cenicafé (generation of technologies), the FNC Extension Service (transfer of technologies) and the Manuel Mejía Foundation (training of extension agents and coffee growers). These retain a strong presence in the PCC main area. Alongside this circuit, coffee growers have implemented technological innovations that have provided their activity with sustainability.

imageThe fact that the PCC has been included by UNESCO  in its World Heritage Site  list means that the region and the country will get greater recognition on its coffee, developing additional elements of differentiation that few products can replicate. In essence, the PCC is the first coffee-centered live and productive cultural landscape declared. Only a limited number of products have obtained this acknowledgment, like the region of the Agave Cultural Landscape in Mexico (where tequila comes from) or the Alto Douro Vinhateiro in Portugal. But the most important benefit is to ensure an invaluable cultural legacy and the preservation of these values for future generations.


In our next issue of Beand & Beyond we will share with our 100% Program members how this great intangible has become an ingredient brand that can be used by member roasters to differentiate their products using this new differentiation argument before consumers and clients, and thus enhance the value promise of their products.

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You are invited to learn more about our coffee family and our products, visiting the BEAN & BEYOND sections on the top of this page.