In the past few years we have been asking ourselves a lot of hard questions regarding coffee and sustainability. As you’ll read in our next mail, we’re making great strides – from roasting to last-mile logistics – in our local efforts.However, at sourcing level, the challenge is far different. 85% of workers involved in growing coffee do not reach subsistence level-income based on their coffee activities. This is true for specialty coffees as well as for mainstream coffees. The reasons are manifold – and more often than not beyond our control: lack of funds, lack of knowledge, lack of selling power, geographic hurdles, climate change, corruption, war, crop pests – you name it.
After doing intensive research, it was clear that the key to prosperity for farmer and environment is grounded in 3 key pillars:
- Can I finance next year’s crop, ie “Can I get by till next year”?
- Can I finance next year’s crop at a reasonable cost, ie. “Can I save/use some of my income to invest beyond this year’s needs?”
- Do I have the tools and education to make the most of my crop(s), ie “can I build a sustainable business for the long term, with respect for my environment?”
The gateway to better farming starts with a farmer that earns an income, and has the relative certainty of a future income. While both organic and different fair trade certifications are certainly not without merit, they are clearly a next step.
Again, given the size of the income problem, it is our firm belief that we cannot address the many challenges the coffee industry faces without thinking of the income hurdle first – in a structural way. That’s why we decided to look for partners that do exactly that. We found the perfect match in Incofin CVSO and World Coffee Research.
Incofin is a Belgian Impact Fund that has been focusing on access to capital for the last 10 years, currently supporting 3’250’000 entrepreneurs and farmers in countries of origin – beyond coffee.
Moreover – together with Fairtrade International – they are co-founder of the Fairtrade Access Fund: this fund gives small farmers better access to the markets and also finances long-term investments by cooperatives in infrastructure, machinery, plantings…in line with our 3 pillar focus.
World Coffee Research dives deeper into the questions that matter for the future of coffee from an agricultural perspective, as their mission statement makes clear: “Grow, protect, and enhance supplies of quality coffee while improving the livelihoods of the families who produce it” They set up research that touches all important aspects of sustainable coffee growing, and translate their findings to the field.
What will we do? Framed within our initiative “Your Coffee Counts”, for every kilo of coffee we sell – certified or otherwise, specialty or mainstream, our own or a partner’s – we will invest a fixed amount into the 3 pillars: Access to Financing, Cost of Financing, Tools and Education. We will invest the aggregate amount into the Incofin fund and into WCR on a regular basis. And we will continue to invest, quarter after quarter, year after year, cup after cup.
In december 2019, we made our first investment. Together with you, we hope to make many more!
Would you like to know more ? Do contact us to discuss!