I have been writing in recent weeks about the issue of hunger. You may be asking yourself what hunger has to do with coffee. Unfortunately, and notwithstanding the extraordinary advances made by the sustainable and certified coffee movements, hunger is still common in the coffeelands.
The “sustainable coffees” segment of the specialty market is more crowded than ever with certifications and concepts that advance different — sometimes competing — ideas about what constitutes sustainability when it comes to coffee. I believe that all these approaches generate benefits and move in the right direction. The question I struggle with is how much benefit they need to generate — and for whom — to be truly sustainable?
Payback time. Earlier this week I confessed to taking some pleasure in seeing a few national champion baristas roll up their sleeves in Sustainable Harvest’s Seed-to-Cup Barista Challenge, and get humbled in the process. Then, I got mine — on a visit with an association of smallholder farmers in Guatemala on Tuesday, something went terribly wrong after I carried a sack of freshly picked coffee cherries to the wet mill.
What Santa really needs for Christmas — espresso!
Santa Anita de la Union, a community of families of ex-combatants in Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, inaugurated a new ecological wet mill this week.
Last week I turned the basic concept of “hunger” into the remote concepts of “availability, access and utilization.” I appreciate why that might seem confusing. But these sub-concepts make it possible to target the specific sources of want with more precision in the design and implementation of anti-hunger initiatives. Here are a few examples of how this is being done in the coffeelands.
I have made my pre-conference picks for the highlights of the conference for anyone interested in the intersection between specialty coffee and development: lectures that seem to hold the most promise to illuminate some of the persistent challenges in the coffeelands — and some of the most promising approaches to addressing them. Biggest disappointment: nothing on the agenda about climate change and the threat it poses to specialty coffee.
I have been writing a bit over the past few days about food security in coffee communities. When I write about “food security,” what I am really talking about is hunger. People can suffer from hunger when the answer to any of the following three questions is “no”: Is there enough food for people to eat? Can people get the food? Do people make use of the food?
I must admit that I have had a hard time getting into barista competitions. Living and working in the coffeelands where so many smallholder farmers work so hard in total obscurity to grow the great coffee that fuels — quite literally — the hyper-caffeinated gatherings of the SCAA and the Barista Guild makes it hard for me to accept the swagger of baristas who produce beverages that seem only very remotely to qualify as “coffee.” So you can imagine my delight when Sustainable Harvest had the inspired idea to bring champion baristas to origin during the 2009 edition of Let’s Talk Coffee to live a few days in the life of a coffee farmer.
There are crises everyday in the coffeelands. Not macroeconomic crises, but household dramas with high stakes — the education, nutrition and health of family members often hang in the balance as these crises play themselves out in relative obscurity.