ACUMEN ENTREPRENEURS BUILD SOLUTIONS TO THE TOUGHEST CHALLENGES FACING THE POOR
Selva Nevada is a high-end artisanal ice cream and frozen fruit company that sources indigenous fruits from smallholder farmers in post-conflict regions in Colombia.
Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries on earth and, as a result, is home to a range of exotic fruits including açaí, camu camu, arazá and copoazú. These fruits are primarily grown in the Amazon basin and in the Chocó-Darien rainforest on the Pacific Coast. However, over the past decades these regions have been deeply affected by the armed conflict in Colombia. The presence of guerrillas, paramilitaries and criminal groups–all of which are involved in the drug trade–have forced many rural farmers to abandon fruit production and either engage in illegal coca production (the main ingredient in cocaine) or migrate to urban areas. As a result, an average of 55% of the population in these areas live in poverty and 21% live in extreme poverty. The Colombian government has long struggled to find solutions to tackle issues of rural poverty and urban migration in post-conflict parts of the country, but opportunities to boost incomes and connect smallholder farmers to markets are limited.
Selva Nevada is addressing issues of rural poverty through its portfolio of frozen exotic fruit-based products including ice creams, smoothies, fruit-pulp blends and bowls. Over the past decade, international demand for exotic and superfruit-based products has increased due to many of the fruits’ high concentration of antioxidants and vitamins. Native to post-conflict areas such as the Amazon basin and in the Chocó-Darien rainforest, Selva Nevada sources fruits from farmer-owned and operated associations in rural communities. The company pays associations at the time of harvest, sometimes offering working capital to farmers during the growing season, purchasing fruits in long-term, predetermined volumes in order to create stable incomes for smallholder farmers. Fruits are also harvested in a sustainable manner–whether collected from the wild or grown naturally on local farms–to protect Colombia’s natural biodiversity and forest conservation.
Selva Nevada manufactures its products in a centralized facility in Bogotá, where it then distributes them to retail grocery clients and Selva Nevada-branded shops, thus linking indigenous communities with premium food markets.
In the locations that Selva Nevada operates in, 39-78 percent of people live in poverty, and 10-46 percent live in extreme poverty. Selva Nevada’s intention is to improve the economic conditions of low-income and poor Colombians. Currently, 408 smallholder farmers sell their fruits to Selva Nevada, leading to a 26 percent increase in the income of these farmers.