Socially Conscionable And Sustainability Guides
The following symbols are guides to the Socially Conscionable and Sustainability aspects of each coffee to increase our awareness.
What Is Coffee Sustainability?
In the 1990’s the very observable poverty of the small coffee farmer throughout the coffee producing world and its disparity with the consuming nations, introduced the concept of Fair Trade. It seemingly addressed this economic disparity. It also introduced shade grown coffee, a method of coffee growing that copied the natural environment to produce great tasting coffee, whilst assisting in the preservation of the environment.
The concept and the connection between the two was sustainability. It said to ensure long term supply we must consider and recognise that our actions now must ensure their capability of being ongoing. Damaging the environment is unsustainable as it will not produce coffee in the future. Equally, poverty means that a farmer cannot feed his family and he will change his livelihood or perish.
The recognition of this interdependence and the bringing together under one roof the concepts of organic farming and economic empowerment was sustainability. Over time a back lash of reality started, was it really possible to get a farmer to change his way of farming.
Agriculture is hard enough without factoring in the environment. Did a label on a bag make any real difference other than the consumer feeling better. In harsh economic times is it really possible for a business to put time and money into considering energy use, the returns of a farmer, when it was merely difficult enough to stay afloat. The reality was it was just too complicated to run a business and incorporate sustainability, it would have to be foregone until tomorrow, when maybe there was opportunity to assist. Anyway, the market or someone else will fix it.
With the reality of the difficulties, there was also an increased cynical back lash. If another berry munching do gooder wasn’t telling us how to live our lives or there wasn’t another announcement about energy, then the word “Sustainable” became a
What Socially Conscionable And Sustainability Issues Relate To Quality Coffee?
A business or persons involvement in sustainability is inevitably limited by multiple barriers. At Coffee Dominion we have, however, identified a role and a responsibility, to be a partner in these developments. We have, firstly, tried to understand the underlying issues in the coffee industry, in order that we may make better and more progressive decisions. These issues, directly or indirectly, ultimately relate to us and their solutions will only be the actions of the many. A starting point is thoughtful consideration and meaningful action.
The sustainability issues are:
Smallholder production is the majority of world coffee production. The small farmer in Sumatra or Colombia, for instance, faces the immediate challenges of low coffee productivity, land constraints and limited diversification of agricultural and economic diversity. The resulting low income and population growth result in the breakdown of communities, as the younger generation migrates to the cities and the supply chain is broken.
As farms struggle with low incomes, the surrounding community suffers as a consequence. Socio economic infrastructure strains with, for example, basic access to medical and education become limited. Compounded with the problems of growing populations, land ownership and cultural constraints, the supply chain is weakened.
There is by fate a narrow genetic diversity of Arabica varietals grown outside the heirloom plants that originated from the forests of Ethiopia and Sudan. Scientists put the total amount of genetic diversity in the varietals that are used today at 10% of what exists in the world Arabica collections. This narrow genetic diversity has created plants that are not ready to tolerate new disease and insect pressures, as well as heat or other environmental threats posed by climate c
What Are We Doing?
Being a coffee roaster means tasting coffee; it’s a delicious vocation. It can also mean travelling to very different parts of the world to understand its growing, harvesting and processing; and to source and select it. The coffee roaster must then profile it, roast it, describe it and sell it. It requires time and experience to do this. When the outcome is shared with others who enjoy the final product, this is rewarding. And surely, delicious coffee makes the world a better place.
Unfortunately, the coffee roaster can get obsessed in the pursuit of a fine cup of coffee. Climbing mountains to visit secluded coffee farms, getting very lost in jungles, sleeping on mud floors, ruining people’s bath tubs and murdering fish, may all be embraced in a few days in the pursuit of coffee taste. The other side of this singular pursuit for taste and quality, is the coffee farmer.
It is the coffee farmer who produces the taste and the quality. The majority of coffee farmers, from Africa to South and Central America to the East Indies are small holders who live in abject poverty. They have paid the price of being subjects of Empires, from the Ottoman Empire in the 1450’s through to the end of Colonialism and then the price of rotten corruption and dictatorships. A coffee roaster cannot by nature and association be “Specialty,” there must be a contradiction, if at the end supply chain there is poverty. In selecting and considering coffee purchases, a coffee roaster needs to be coffee farmer friendly. This does not mean charity.
We could, no doubt do better but we consider ourselves a coffee farmer friendly buyer, we purchase top end commercial through to low end specialty. These are more expensive coffees, with the higher prices feeding back to the progressive farmer, ensuring the economic viability of the industry.