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36. Hunger in the coffeelands presentation

A number of people who attended the Hunger in the Coffeelands panel at SCAA on Saturday asked for a copy of my presentation.  Here it is.  After the presentation I went back and typed up some notes, trying my best to remember what I said with each slide.  It is not verbatim, but I think it is pretty close.

My apologies to anyone who followed my posts in the run up to SCAA, when I published a series of posts to preview what I thought I was going to present.  As it turns out, I geeked out a bit in those posts with lots conceptual frameworks and development jargon.  By the time the event rolled around, I had managed to wrestle those detailed posts into less than two dozen simple slides and translated them into (mostly) plain English.


  • Ezra says:

    Just read the excellent presentation, Mike. Look forward to hearing more about it.

    • Michael says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Ezra.

      I think there is some good momentum behind this issue now within the industry. Green Mountain has been working tirelessly to raise awareness of this issue for a number of years, and the two presentations it convenened during the Symposium and SCAA event last week were the highest-profile opportunities it has had to put the issue before leaders in the industry. I have had a good number of follow up calls and emails about the issue this week from different kinds of actors in the industry, which I think is a good sign. And Sustainable Harvest has convened the “Food Security Solutions” event in June to create a space for farmers in its supply chains to build skills that will help them reduce hunger in their communities — a pretty decisive move by a leader in sustainability to address sources of vulnerability that arise from beyond their supply chains. I will keep posting here on our work around this issue and what I am seeing and hearing in the industry more broadly. Check back occasionally and look in the “Beyond coffee” category for any updates.

      PS: I hope you don’t mind that I shared with the audience the angry reaction you got from a few Fair Trade advocates after you published the Time magazine piece on Fair Trade and hunger.

  • Hi Michael,

    First off hats off for a clear, insightful and moving presentation. Several people after the forum were educated and inspired. Now the next step is to move this into continue cycles of action as the “we” co-create strategies to reduce and finally eliminate these thin months.

    On a related note, I was talking to coffee historian Steven Topic about the issue of hunger in the coffee lands. While there is evidence about the thin or hungry months growing, we were trying to think if there have been major famines in the coffee lands in the past. Does anybody have any idea about this?


    • Michael says:


      Thanks so much for the kind words about the presentation. I had a similar experience in terms of people’s reactions — one woman from a small roaster flagged me down from across the street later that day to tell me how much she learned from all the people on the panel. In sum, I think there was plenty of surprise about the scope of the problem and lots of interest in being part of an effort to address it. The big question, of course, is what people can do. I think the good news is that there is more innovation than ever before in the ways industry actors are engaging at origin. And I am sensing an openness to new ways of working in the coffeelands, so I am optimistic about the process of co-creation you mention. Of course, we are always happy to support it in whatever way we can. I will try to get some of my thoughts in order about what I am seeing and hearing in the industry on this count and post something here next week.

      Meantime, I will defer to the historians on your question!


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