Alquería was founded in 1959 by Jorge Cavelier Jiménez and his son Enrique Cavelier Gaviria, with the goal of “bringing nutrition to people in Colombia through a good glass of milk”. Nowadays, Alquería consists of 8 processing plants, 17 distribution centres, works with 13 000 small/medium-holder farmers, engages with 100 000 vendors and over 6 000 collaborators to reach 5 million households in Colombia. In 2014, they were recognised with the “Emprender Paz” award (Sida’s Innovation for Peace challenge fund for Colombia) for the work that the company was doing through its MACA “Fomento Ganadero” programme in the department of Meta. The MACA programme offers education, training and technical assistance to producers in the Macarena region and has benefited more than 1 100 dairy farmers. Alquería has contributed to the recovery of 6 municipalities of Meta, that for many years were under the control of the FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) – a guerrilla movement involved in the Colombian armed conflict from 1964 to 2017.
We interviewed Fernando Fuentes Sánchez, the Director of the programme, who told us how at the beginning of the programme they were able to work only within a 20km distance from the military camps, and how with “transparency from the company and the support of local communities that believed in the initiative” they were able to work in an area affected by the armed conflict. Fernando shared with us how important it was for the local communities to find a legal and stable source of income. Milk is collected and paid every 15 days as opposed to 2 to 3 times per year for other agricultural products. When Alquería came to Meta in 2008, “we were pioneers in engaging with farmers as suppliers and created a market dynamic that has allowed other local companies to be part of the development of the region”.
Challenge. To be able to operate in remote areas, it was fundamental to count on the commitment of the community since this was key to overcome adversities of security in the territories affected by the armed conflict. To ensure the permanence of the business it was necessary to include a process of technical assistance and technology transfer.
Impact. Inclusive business initiatives like this one require commitments from all participants, long-term technical follow-up and to work closely with the producers. For these reasons, Alquería planned this program with a long-term vision and it is still in operation today. Since 2014:
The company has managed to consolidate a close relationship with suppliers
The model has been replicated across the country with 130 associations that are part of the supply chain of the company
The purchasing model has evolved and the volume of milk they buy has increased
“The project is an example for many that it is possible to do business and impact in areas that need help in terms of marketing, support and development.”
Carlos Fernando Fuentes Sánchez, Director, Fomento Ganadero