Sparking transformation one young person at a time

August 12, 2019

From initiating a school strike to being nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, Greta Thunberg has demonstrated how determination and belief in a need for change can spark local and global movements. At 16 years of age, Greta’s understanding that there is an urgent need to act on climate change in order to ensure a future for current and upcoming generations has inspired people around the world to take charge and fight for what’s right.

Just like her, there are young people across Latin America determined to make a difference in their communities.

With climate change critically threatening coffee production, several organizations have discovered the transformative power of youth to revitalize the crop and the people involved. Their report, Investing in Youth in Coffee Growing Communities, summarizes the main reasons given by young people for not continuing in the coffee business, while mapping initiatives that integrate youth in their work.

This report, as well as the Farmer Link project, are supported by the SAFE Platform, which is powered by the IDB Lab and managed by Hivos. SAFE helps transform coffee and cocoa landscapes across Latin America, understanding that people, especially youth, are agents of change.

I saw for myself how youth can be agents of change when I visited some of these young people creating a future for themselves and their communities in the smallholder coffee sector.

Elizabeth’s vision

Elizabeth Restrepo was trained as one of the community leaders for the Farmer Link project in Andes, Colombia. Still in her early twenties, she is responsible for visiting coffee producers in her area to advise them on better agricultural practices.

“Most of the producers are older and like to stick to the way they initially learned how to do things. Once they see changes, they are more willing to adopt new ideas and are more appreciative of the advice we give,” Elizabeth said while walking through one of the farms supported by the SAFE Platform.


On a motorcycle ride through the Colombian mountains, she told me how she was hesitant to accept the position at such a young age, but she recognized the value her energy could bring to other members of her community. She is proud of what she is doing and is hopeful for the future she is helping to create.

Vilma’s creativity

“One of my biggest challenges is being a woman and so young. Coffee production is viewed as a job just for men. I’ve had to show that women can do it too,” said Vilma Villela, the 21-year-old representative of the Youth Office in the La Fraternidad municipality in Honduras. “It is very important that youth involve ourselves in coffee associations and organizations because we have a sense of creativity that sometimes older people lack,” she added.

Vilma is one of the hundreds of young people who have been supported by Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) projects. This SAFE Platform partner has a long track-record in empowering young people from coffee communities. Coffee shops and other businesses and services have sprouted as a result of the workshops led by the HRNS Coffee Kids and Generations projects. You can hear more about these initiatives in this podcast.

It is inspiring viewing and helping other young people fulfill their dreams, whether that may be producing and selling their own coffee or moving masses to combat climate change.

Working with organizations – and most importantly, people – who believe in the power of youth is motivating, and I am certain that if we work together to solve inequalities, we will be able to live in a sustainable world for all.

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