Sustainable coffee farming, securing farming and coffee for future generations
This blog was created by Kim Reeves, Retail Category Manager Hot Beverages for Sodexo.
Kim travelled to Peru in August 2015 to trace the coffee beans Sodexo buy to create triple certified Aspretto coffee, back to their source.
A key challenge for coffee farming communities in Peru is a lack of technical knowledge. This means that often farmers struggle to present their coffee in the way which commands the highest possible price. They also struggle to tackle issues such as La Roya, a type of leaf rust, which affects 80% of farms and can mean that farmers lose up to 50% of their crop.
Fairtrade support co-operatives, like the ones we visited in Peru, with country to country knowledge sharing. As co-operatives continue to develop and grow they are able to invest in more technical managers to support the farming communities.
Whilst in Peru we were able to visit the only technical farming school for the whole of the Junin and Pasco regions. The school teaches organic farming, coffee growing and agronomy, as well as financial management and social responsibility, with farmers travelling for as long as two days to get there.
The school was established about 15 years ago, originally funded by the La Florida co-operative, and is now becoming self-sufficient by offering services to other, less established, co-operatives in the region at a cost. The La Florida co-operative has been able to achieve this after 30 years of Fairtrade premium funding.
We saw first-hand an example of a farm where 50% of the crop has been lost to leaf rust. In contrast we saw a farm which had benefited from technical education. The difference was significant. Juan had inherited his farm from his father and, knowing very little about farming, had gone abroad to study farming. All the plants on his farm were freshly planted, he was growing a range of varieties and none of his plants had been affected by La Roya.
Environmental management is also an issue in Peru. In some places farmers have burnt down sections of “The Silver” rainforest in order to plant crops, without heeding the corresponding environmental damage. Planting crops sustainably whilst allowing the rainforest canopy to remain takes time. Given the poverty we saw, we understood that some people felt they could not wait. Sadly, crops take longer to establish on this ground so the damage is often in vain.
Last year 20 students graduated from the college, this year it was 60. This means that technical expertise and understanding is growing in the region and future generations will understand the importance of sustainable farming, how to combat problems such as leaf rust using organic farming methods and the importance of selling their produce through the co-operative.
Through the support of the Fairtrade Foundation co-operatives can continue to invest in education through the technical school and technical managers. These initiatives undoubtedly improve quality of life for the farming community for years to come as well as ensure a sustainable coffee supply for future generations.
By supporting Fairtrade, Aspretto and Sodexo is helping to build a sustainable future for the coffee industry as a whole.