The SCAA has published the program for the 2010 conference, and here are my pre-event picks for the highlights for anyone interested in the intersection of specialty coffee and international development. These are the lectures that seem to hold the most promise to illuminate some of the persistent challenges in the coffeelands, as well as 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.
Of course, the thumbnail summaries available on the SCAA Expo site are thin. And they omit information about the presenters, which goes a long way to determining how valuable the sessions are. Still, even based on the brief summaries online, these seem like some promising sessions that are addressing some difficult and important questions. SCAA is always a beehive of activity — busy little bees packing a month of meetings into three caffeinated days — and it seems you never get to do everything you hoped. So make these sessions a priority and add them to your schedule now!
Do your best not to miss these sessions:
Friday, 16 April
- SCAA Measures the Collective Impact of Members on the UN Millennium Development Goals. The good folks on the sustainability council have been working hard on a system to document the contributions of the industry’s sustainability pioneers on achieving the Millennium Development Goals. An important opportunity for the industry to take a credible approach to documentation.
Saturday, 17 April
- Gender and Equality: The Role Women Play in the Future of the Coffee Industry. The excellent summary of this session raised the issue of gender division of labor in the coffee production and marketing processes, and suggested that this may be as much about women and the present of coffee as it is about the future of the industry. If the content maintains the focus of the summary — on origin, on how women experience specialty coffee differently than men — this could be great.
- Hunger in the Coffeelands: The Growing Threat to Specialty Coffee. Theres is a growing body of literature to suggest that hunger in coffee communities is a serious problem. Hope that this event will provide some new field-level data or identify some approaches to addressing food insecurity that are working in the coffelands. I will be on this panel, so will drag down the quality a bit, but the others scheduled to appear — Rick Peyser from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Chris Bacon of the Community Agroecology Network and Martha Villareyna of CECOCAFEN, among others — will more than compensate!
- The Hidden Element in Sustainability. I love the summary…The session sounds like an installment of Lord of the Rings and the hidden element is the grail. Can’t wait to see which of the industry’s high priests of sustainability hold court and what they have to say!
Sunday, 18 April
- Alternate Views on Social Justice Programs & Certifications. The very formulation of the title provides some hope that this could be less of a marketing opportunity for competing certifiers and more of a constructive exchange.
- There are other sessions on “alternative trade finance” — which usually means the pioneering work of Root Capital, Shared Interest, Rabobank, etc., making capital available to smallholder farmer organizations — and direct trade that are worth noting. These sessions promise to address issues critical to the sustainability of farmer cooperatives — their ability to build direct and lasting relationships and finance their production and marketing. But the highlighted sessions above have the potential to push beyond the cooperative level and take participants into the homes of farming families to better understand issues of gender, poverty and hunger, as well as the real impacts of the industry and certifications to address them.
- I was faked out a few times as I looked over the program, getting excited to see sessions that mentioned water quality, mitigating environmental impact and carbon footprint, only later to lose enthusiasm when I realized that they are all focused on the market end of the chain on roasters and retailers. These are important issues, but I will be really excited when these discussions revolve around issues in the coffeelands: climate change, mitigation and adaptation strategies, integrated water resource management and payment for ecosystem services.