Some Colombian coffee farmers will see their first retirement package, thanks to a new initiative announced on 20 March. Nestlé Nespresso, the Colombian Ministry of Labour, the Aguadas Coffee Growers’ Cooperative and Fairtrade International announced a ground-breaking public-private partnership to provide a retirement fund to coffee farmers who take part in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program. This pilot initiative, supported by the Colombian Coffee Growers’ Federation (FNC), will leverage the national retirement scheme, Beneficios Económicos Periodicos (BEPS), developed by the Colombian Ministry of Labour to reach Colombian workers whose income does not allow them to contribute to a pension in their old age. The government will invest funds based on the level of the farmer’s contribution, Nespresso said in a statement. They will tap into the extensive network of farmers that Nespresso has created through its AAA Program. The pilot will be launched in the Caldas region, initially with the Aguadas Coffee Growers’ Cooperative, which is Fairtrade Certified, and long-term coffee supplier Expocafe/Cafexport. Nespresso said that it will leverage its network of around 40 agronomists to extend the scheme to about 1200 AAA farmers. “This guarantee of welfare for the elderly is part of the profound social transformation this government is driving and comes with support from the private sector,” said Labour Minister Rafael Pardo in a statement. “We are delighted to enter into this partnership with Nespresso, which will allow us to leverage the relationships they have built with farmers in Aguadas over the last ten years.” “We are proud to be part of this initiative, which fits within our long-term approach to secure farmer welfare and provide social benefits to farmers,” said Jean-Marc Duvoisin, CEO of Nestlé Nespresso SA in the statement. “We also believe it will encourage younger generations to continue farming and preserve this essential part of the Colombian economy and heritage.” In the future, Nespresso said that the program may be extended to reach the over 40,000 AAA farmers participating in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program in the country. While the Colombian government will match 20 per cent of what farmers invest, Fairtrade International will work with the local farmers’ cooperative that will determine how they can invest their earnings in this scheme, which will enable them to start planning for their retirement. “The farmers have clearly identified their lack of a pension as a key concern. With the average age of coffee famers in Colombia hitting 53, they are unable to retire with dignity because they have no pension. This innovative public-private partnership will start to address this urgent need and could be a really exciting step forward,” said Harriet Lamb, CEO of Fairtrade International, in the statement. “What is being implemented today in Aguadas is being watched with interest in all coffee growing regions in Colombia and perhaps in other countries,” said Luis G. Muñoz, CEO of the FNC. “Being able to secure a decent standard of living for agricultural farmers is a challenge many countries have and this innovative scheme may very well be the most significant step to achieve this objective.”
This initiative is part of the larger collaboration between Nespresso and Fairtrade International announced in July 2013. At the end of 2013, Nespresso was sourcing 84 per cent of its coffee through the AAA Program.