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125. SCAA 2011: The view from the coffeelands

Yesterday I finally found time to review the full program for this year’s SCAA.  We will be bringing lots of staff and partners from our CAFE Livelihoods project to this year’s show, some of whom will be experiencing it for the first time.  As part of our efforts to help them get as much as possible out of the event, I reviewed the agenda and identfied for them presentations that I think will be most relevant and useful for smallholder farmer organizations.  So here are my picks for SCAA 2011 — the presentations that look most exciting from where I sit in the coffeelands.

DAY ONE – 29 APRIL 2011

  • After the Harvest – The Fight Against Hunger in the Coffeelands
    9am – General Assembly Theatre – Section B

    This session could be one of the most memorable at the event.  Green Mountain has been relentlessly pushing within the industry in recent years around the issue of hunger in the coffeelands.  Last year, I had the privilege of sitting on a panel with representatives of farmer organizations and NGOs and academics in which we all shared our perspectives on this issue.  This year Green Mountain will take a different approach.  Instead of bringing people from origin to SCAA to talk about the issue, it will bring the SCAA to origin to hear directly from farmers about their experience of hunger in the premiere of a documentary titled “After the Harvest – The Fight Against Hunger in the Coffeelands.”  (Watch the trailer here.)  Following the screening, Rick Peyser from Green Mountain will faciltiate a discussion among audience members and other leaders on the issue.

  • Climate Change in Coffee Country
    9 am – Room 372AB

    In my preview of SCAA last year, I suggested that the total absence of the climate change issue from the SCAA schedule the biggest disappointment of the entire event.  This year event organizers redeem themselves in a big way by bringing three experts with diverse perspectives together to address the issue of climate change and its impact on coffee.  I am most familiar with CIAT’s very impressive work on this issue, since Peter Laderach of CIAT is a friend and collaborator of CRS — we are working together on the CUP project in Mexico and Central America to help thousands of smallholder farmers adapt to the likely impacts of climate change on coffee suitability.

  • Sustainability and Certifications: New Global Report from COSA
    10:30 am – Room 361EF

    Sustainability guru Daniele Giovannucci offers his perspectives on the market for certified coffees and assesses the social, economic and environmental impacts of different approaches to sustainability — as relevant at origin as it is in the marketplace.

  • Measuring our Impact
    10:30 am – Room 372AB

    I picked this presentation last year and wasn’t able to make it.  Hoping to have better luck this time around.  (With three presentations scheduled — one each day — my chances are good.)  I am curious to see the platform that SCAA has chosen to create a kind of meta-database of origin projects, but the real story here are the impact indicators and the methods for assessing progress against established targets, which will ultimately tell us just how much the industry is getting for all its investment in sustainability.

DAY TWO – 30 APRIL 2011

  • Trading Directly
    9:00 am – Room 361EF

    Direct Trade has been ascendant in recent years, but not only in the marketplace — at origin it has emerged as a kind of Holy Grail for farmers who see alignment in their dual pursuits of quality of coffee and quality of life.  Hearing from some of the most celebrated Direct Traders on both ends of the chain is a valuable opportunity for farmers who want to see themselves there someday soon.

  • Ask the Green Buyers
    10:30 am – Room 370BCEF

    More than a dozen of the industry’s most recognized buyers from its leading brands available to talk to farmer organization representatives.  What’s not to like?

  • Boiling Down the “C”
    10:30 am – Room 362D

    With prices higher than anytime in recent memory and all the talk of a quality supply crunch, what could be more timely than hearing from two guys who know quality as well as anyone else?  This one seems positioned to lead to a strong endorsement for the GCQRI.

  • QC and QA
    10:30 am – Room 362D

    Detailed systems to monitor progress and assess impact are tools of the trade in international development and help us report back to our donors on the return we are able to generate on their investments.  We are working in the field — with Cropster, actually — to better understand how we can put donor-driven M&E systems to work for the farmers we accompany after our projects have ended.

DAY THREE – 1 MAY 2011

  • Quality Squared
    10:30 am – Room 372AB

    This one is music to my ears — the members of the SCAA Sustainability Council take as their point of depature the recognition that quality “sustainable” coffees aren’t always and everywhere associated with quality of life or sustainable livelihoods.  A great bookend to an Expo that begins with the screening of a documentary about persistent seasonal hunger in communities producing certified coffees.

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