At last month’s SCAA Symposium, we were invited to reexamine our assumptions about sustainability in coffee — what we think we know about the issue that may not be true. At the time, I thought that exercise produced some provocative responses. And then I read a recent study on the impacts of organic and Fair […]
SCAA 2011 preview – the view from the coffeelands.
Last week I made the not-so-bold prediction that 2011 will be The Year of the GCQRI. Today I consider whether that is an entirely good thing.
2011 will be the Year of the GCQRI.
Critics have seized on recent findings on hunger in the coffeelands as evidence of Fair Trade’s failure. I see it more as a failure to understand the complexities of hunger, to communicate appropriately and to set fair expectations for Fair Trade.
Several dozen of the most influential and quality-obsessed people in the coffee industry are gathered this week in College Station, Texas, for the Global Coffee Quality Research Initiative (GCQRI) Symposium — the first step in launching a massive, five-year collaborative research project involving industry, bilateral donor agencies and research institutes and designed to increase the availability of high-quality coffee. Here are some links to very good real-time coverage of the event from people who are participating.
I recently shared the perspectives of a pair of Q-grader cuppers on where quality comes from — perspectives that left out most of what coffee farmers do. Their perspectives are informed, but are not the only ones on an issue around which there is no real consensus. Today, a different take on the issue that attributes more of the quality of your coffee to how farmers grow it.
Farmers in El Salvador, which has few remaining natural forests, waning water resources and precious little high-altitude terrain, are acutely aware of the impacts of climate change. That’s why many are making short-term changes to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on their farms and adopting water-efficient post-harvesting technology. The coffee sector in El Salvador is also investing in breeding more resistant varieties.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (known as CIAT, its acronym in Spanish) collaborated several years ago on research in Mexico and Central America that has helped put the issue of food security on the map in the specialty coffee industry. My colleagues in East Africa will be conducting similar research in Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda in the coming months in connection with Green Mountain-funded food security projects in those countries. As far as I know, this will be the first-ever household-level data on hunger in the coffeelands in East Africa.
We have partnering with CIAT (the International Center for Tropical Agriculture) to implement a climate change adaptation project with funding from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Coffee Under Pressure: Climate Change and Adaptation in Mesoamerica (or CUP for short) is helping farmers assess their own vulnerability to climate change and adapt to changing conditions on the ground. We also hope this modest project can show a way forward in the ongoing search for cost-effective, scalable ways to bring actionable climate change research to smallholder farmers.