Brewing a better future for coffee farmers

Coffee with lockup
by Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand

Coffee gets most of us out of bed in the morning, but if the industry doesn’t become more sustainable we could face a future without it.

The production of coffee is highly dependent on weather conditions and vulnerable to disease. The coffee market is highly volatile, so farmers never know what they will earn for a crop and can’t adequately plan for the future.

In some coffee-dependent areas, economic security is already being threatened by changing rainfall patterns and rising temperatures that have affected yields, suitable areas for growing, the quality of the coffee and the challenges posed by pests and disease. In fact, some climate change modeling suggests the area suitable for coffee production may fall by half before 2050, and by 2080 wild coffee could be extinct.

All of which is bad news for the roughly 125 million people in 70 countries who rely on coffee for their livelihoods. Many of those people, however, don’t necessarily have the resources they are going to need to adapt to climate change or make their industry sustainable for the next generation of farmers.

In Papua New Guinea, Naomy is a member of the Alang Daom coffee-growing cooperative, and following in the footsteps of her coffee-growing parents. The family joined the coop in 2004, and today Naomy tends 300-400 coffee trees. The fear in the wider industry is that Naomy is an exception, and children will turn away from a career as a farmer, unable to make a living in the tough conditions.

The cooperative helped put Naomy and her siblings through school, and she is still learning, thanks to Fairtrade supported training sessions that she attends before taking the new farming techniques back to her village. Part of the emphasis is changing the mindset of workers from being coffee pickers, to being coffee farmers with a much more active role in improving crops and techniques.

Fairtrade works with farmers and workers to make sure the coffee industry has a future. The Fairtrade Premium can be used to fund training and education programs, as well as climate change adaptation and resilience strategies or crop diversification. Buying coffee carrying the Fairtrade Mark means you’re investing in the future for coffee farmers, and coffee.  

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