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.
Fresh Cup magazine has published a brief news story in its July issue on Food Security Solutions — the four-day workshop convened by Sustainable Harvest in Nicaragua in June. We are grateful to Fresh Cup for recognizing the importance of the first-ever multistakeholder gathering devoted exclusively to the issue of hunger.
The Food Security Solutions event has ended, but it is my hope and expectation that its impacts will make themselves felt in coffee communities throughout the Americas for years to come.
In a few minutes I will leave the swelter of Managua and drive to the cool shade of the coffeelands overlooking Matagalpa for a four-day workshop where dozens of smallholder coffee farmers from across Mexico and Central America will gather to talk about something other than coffee: how to reduce hunger in the coffeelands.
Over the past week and a half, I have been posting on the issue of how coffee companies are investing at origin. Today: what they are investing in, and how that may be changing.
Over the the past few months, I have found myself talking with a broad range of stakeholders in the specialty coffee industry about how coffee companies are investing at origin. Here are some reflections on what I am hearing in those discussions and seeing in the field, and some ideas about the directions in which industry engagement in the coffeelands may be moving.
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.
Many of the threats to the sustainable coffee enterprise arise from beyond the coffee chain itself. Some of these threats, like climate change, are new. Others, like hunger in the coffeelands, are not. In all cases, they require a new kind of engagment and new investments at origin to create a truly sustainable trade in coffee.
In a recent episode of Mad Money, hyper-caffeinated host Jim Cramer said GMCR stock, which has already risen over the past year from around $30 a share to nearly $100, is positioned to go even higher. “It is a fabulous business model,” Cramer said. I agree. But chances are we are not using the same measuring stick.
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.