Colombia carries the aroma of coffee. Since its first recorded appearance in the eighteenth century, in the book The Orinoco Illustrated, coffee has been the star harvest of this South American country.
Thus, with almost monarchical absolutism, it has become the monocrop in several areas, including Diana Cajibioy’s (‘12, Colombia) community, located in southwest Colombia’s Oporapa municipality, in Huila.
Despite its delicious fragrance, coffee has a disadvantage: it is only produced once a year. This means that families that depend on it are left without a livelihood for several months out of the year.
Aware of this problem, Diana focused her graduation project on finding another source of income for her community and improving the families’ quality of life.
Her dedication has earned her the 2012 Sustainability Prize—a $10,000 cash award, in which $9,000 goes to the student and $1,000 to her high school. The prize is awarded by The Sustainability Laboratory (www.sustainabilitylabs.org) in recognition of the graduation project’s fulfillment of the principles of sustainability developed by the Lab.
The project that will transform a community
Diana’s project proposed planting bananas in the gaps between coffee plants. Taking advantage of the empty spaces meant more crop variety in the same field.
With relatives’ and friends’ help, she distributed surveys among members of her community to understand each family’s reality. In this way, she was able to analyze community needs and make sure there was space to improve coffee production.
Onwards from EARTH
From a young age, Diana knew her profession would grow the same way plants did: strong and rooted in her land.
Her interest in agriculture led her to pursue a career related to agronomy. Later on, she met an EARTH graduate and, motivated by the experiential learning model, decided to apply. Thanks to a donor’s generosity and her leadership skills, Diana arrived to the campus in Guacimo four years ago. Now graduating, she will miss her classmates, teachers, and gallo pinto (rice and beans) served in the cafeteria every morning by the madrinas (the wonderful ladies who work in the cafeteria).
Today, Diana says the University has exceeded her expectations, and considers the values imparted, such as solidarity and humility, the best lessons she received from her professors.
As she readies her suitcases to return with her parents, who proudly attended her graduation, she takes with her the goal to return home and continue working in rural extension, greenhouses, and bio-digesters.
Diana, energized by her passion to improve her community’s quality of life, will continue infusing her banana-coffee project with the scent of sustainability.
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