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Why did coffee and jaguars become friends in Latin America?

In the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia, the first seven coffee farms declared “Amigas del Jaguar” (jaguar-friendly) were certified, which are added to the farms that have already produced this type of special coffee in Costa Rica for a couple of years and that are intended integrate human productive activities to the conservation of the natural scenarios essential for the life of other species, in this case the largest feline in America.

Jaguar lying on a rock.

Jaguar lying on a rock. / Photo: Unsplash - Reference Image

LatinAmerican Post | Alberto Castaño

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Leer en español: ¿Por qué el café se volvió amigo del jaguar en Latinoamérica?

The jaguar, (Panthera onca) is the largest feline in America and one of the most threatened predator species. In the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, human activities have invaded their habitat, cut down their forests, raise cattle and hunt their natural prey, forcing the jaguar to attack the cattle that constitute an easy prey for this great predator that each day goes more and more homeless.

All these conflicts that arise due to the intrusion of man in the natural habitat of thousands of species that are increasingly cornered, have led Colombia's environmental authority in that area of the country, together with the International ProCAT Organization, to seek a formula of harmonization between the productive activities of man and at the same time the restoration and conservation of the natural habitat of the jaguar will be sought.

“We see the need to develop strategies aimed at protecting wildlife and at the same time agricultural activities, the livelihood of many families in the territory. With this we are demonstrating that we can coexist with other species in the same territory, ”said Carlos Francisco Diazgranados, director of Corpamag, the environmental authority in the region.

The certification obtained by these first seven families in the highest elevation massif in the world by the ocean is endorsed by the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, an international organization that has multiple seals of good practice and which certifies after rigorous research on the standards that producers must meet.

“We protect wildlife in wild places with agricultural land in the middle, by certifying companies that grant people and nature coexist and prosper. The certification guarantees the transparency and integrity of our activities ”, you can read on the official website of Wildlife Friendly.

“One of the biggest conservation challenges in the world is to open spaces for species in places that have been intervened by man through their productive systems,” said José Fernando González Maya PhD., Director of the ProCat Organization International that drives this project.

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And he added that thanks to the certification, “the presence of jaguars now becomes a benefit for the grower, it is no longer a problem, it is a guarantee that your farm is, with this certification, more productive than it was before”.

The formula that allows farmers to produce more if they are 'friends of the jaguar' is very simple. "The certification means access to new international markets, what is generated is an added value to the product that is directly related to the conservation of biodiversity, but as this certification also requires 'fair trade', that overprice or added value, goes directly to the producer, this means in simple terms, that a coffee friend of the jaguar is more valuable than a coffee that is sown through practices that are not friendly to the protection of ecosystems.

So far there are 954 hectares that in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta have been declared as coffee farms friendly to the jaguar and that number is expected to continue increasing in such a way that the farmers will benefit, not only through an economic retribution, because “having functional and well-maintained ecosystems guarantees natural resources in good conditions that support all, absolutely all human activities, water, air, soil, biodiversity, and many other services are guaranteed if the populations of the largest predator in Latin America is in good condition,” said the ProCAT director scientist.

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It is that the jaguar shows the health of ecosystems, without large natural predators, such as this one, populations of herbivore species can grow in an excessive way affecting the growth and health of forests, but also affecting the development of crops, which ultimately would end up detrimental to any human activity.

Now, simple, hardworking and humble farmers from different regions can now access international markets such as Arizona in the United States and soon in Ontario Canada to export their jaguar-friendly coffee and the price that Americans pay for Costa Rican coffee or Colombia, with an excellent quality, will improve the quality of life of their families and the habitat of the largest feline in America.

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