Achieving coffee producer prosperity the focus of third World Coffee Producers Forum

SCA 2022 Sustainability Awards

Held as a virtual event and hosted in Rwanda, the first section of the third World Coffee Producers Forum (WCPF) occurred on 15 July. The event consisted of panel discussions that focused on the steps that could help coffee growers achieve prosperity.

“Vital income should be – if you want – a stopover on the road to prosperity of coffee growers,” says Juan Esteban Orduz, Director of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) in the United States and WCPF Chairperson.

“The goal should not be static to just get producers out of poverty, but much more ambitious: to create, along the whole chain, structural conditions in producer countries and the market for real coffee farmers’ prosperity, for their steady progress, ensuring that the next generations will be able to continue producing coffee and prospering as well.”

Early discussion in the WCPF focused on structures that could help coffee farmers achieve growth. Claude Bizimana, CEO of Rwanda’s National Agricultural Export Development Board, moderated discussions with Gerardine Mukeshimana, the Rwandan Minister of Agriculture, and Hailemariam Desalegne, former Ethiopian Prime Minister.

The importance of using research and technology to develop solutions against poverty and climate change was discussed by Jose María Figueres, former President of Costa Rica. The development of coffee plants that are resistant and productive to climate change was one example listed.

Another key takeaway from the event was the need to construct a multidimensional index, as proposed by Professor Jeffrey Sachs.

Sachs proposed drawing up a multidimensional index map of the various coffee regions, to use as a starting point or baseline. From here, actions could be prioritised to improve the living conditions of coffee producers across each region.

The index would include information such as income, health care, internet access, education, food security, drinking water, basic sanitation, electricity, and vulnerability to climate variability.

Through working with other international organisations, Sachs suggested that greater attention could be brought to coffee issues from bodies such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

The need to share this responsibility across the entire supply chain was a key highlight raised during the last discussion. This included the importance of paying fair prices in all aspects of the supply chain.

Ines Burrus, CEO of Burrus Development, said that benefits must be shared across the supply chain with actions such as highlighting supply chain connectivity and traceability having the ability to improve prosperity for female coffee growers.

Contributions from international donors and agencies could act as an important financial source, says Burrus, enabling more development projects to be carried out.

Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, Vice President for the Latin America and the Caribbean region of the World Bank, says these issues need to be addressed in a sustainable and multidimensional way.

By incorporating environmental solutions such as agroforestry and environmental services into addressing coffee producer’s poverty, Jaramillo says there is a potential to add additional income for these growers.

Jaramillo adds that by approaching organisations or encouraging partnerships with companies that fund sustainability initiatives, additional resources can be gained.

With support from government in public policies a crucial aspect, Jaramillo says the World Bank is increasing its focus on supporting and financing small producers.

Luis Felipe López-Calva, UN Development Program Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean ended on finishing note that natural social protection systems acts as a “welfare buffer or minimum floor” for coffee growers.

“Once again, let’s think about coffee growers, because they are the backbone of our industry,” was a final remark made.

Robert Vélez, FNC CEO and WCPF Leader in Creation and Development says on behalf of Colombian coffee growers, he is pleased with the forum’s commitment to not only see world coffee growers overcome poverty, but become prosperous.

“What has been clear for a long time is that producers must have a decent income from generation to generation. That is why we are here today, working to achieve this goal,” says Vélez.

From here, national coffee farmer prosperity plans will be drawn up and are expected to be presented at the second section of the WCPF in 2022, in Kigali, Rwanda. The WCPF hopes this will be an in-person meeting.

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