Helping Latin American Coffee Farmers
The Arbor Day Foundation is an organization that plants trees in order to mitigate the effects of global warming. Its aim is to plant 100 million trees around the world by the year 2022. However, it does not limit its goals to stopping climate change. In fact, by planting coffee trees in South America, the Arbor Day Foundation devotes its time to helping Latin American coffee farmers earn a fair wage.

About the Arbor Day Foundation

The Arbor Day Foundation’s main mission is to stop climate change by planting as many trees as possible around the world. Much of its focus is on encouraging people in the United States to purchase trees to plant in their backyards. However, it also partners with international corporations, such as Rain Forest Rescue, to replant and restore forests around the world. The Arbor Day Foundation’s ultimate goal is to plant 100 million trees by 2022.

While the Arbor Day Foundation’s main focus is on preventing climate change from getting worse, it also acknowledges that trees are important to communities. Part of this acknowledgment involves teaching people in impoverished countries more sustainable ways to use trees to make money. In addition, Arbor Day offers income to any locals who are willing to plant trees. For example, impoverished families in China can distribute and plant wolfberry trees to make a little extra money.

The Arbor Day Foundation Coffee

One of the Arbor Day Foundation’s many causes is helping Latin American coffee farmers grow sustainable coffee. The Foundation does this by helping the farmers plant trees in the Amazon Rainforest. The coffee beans from these trees grow in the shade of the surrounding trees, which helps them get more moisture and ultimately enriches the soil and produces better-tasting coffee. It also allows local farmers to make more money. The farmers have to learn more sustainable growing methods in order to avoid losing the land to soil degradation. By growing their coffee in the shade, they can keep their land and sell more, better quality coffee beans than they could otherwise.

The Arbor Day Foundation’s method of growing coffee also motivates local farmers to reforest areas that had previously been deforested for various reasons. Peruvian farmer Amaro Chasquero Jaramillo is currently growing both young coffee plants and young trees. His ultimate goal is to reforest the area with the coffee trees in the shade of the other trees. He hopes that, in addition to increasing his income, his efforts will also protect local wildlife from further man-made harm.

The Arbor Day Foundation sells three types of coffee on its website, all of which originate in impoverished countries. The medium-roast Arbor Day Blend and the darker Italian Blend both originate from the Cajamarca Region in Peru. The La Sombra Blend, another medium blend, originates in La Chiapas, Mexico. All three blends cost $11.99 for a one-pound bag and members of the Arbor Day Foundation receive a 20 percent discount and a free mug.

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Goal

The Arbor Day Foundation’s main goal is the reforestation of the world and the mitigating of global warming. In the process, it helps the poor in impoverished countries learn to grow crops more sustainably and earn more money. In particular, the Arbor Day Foundation is helping Latin American coffee farmers earn a fair wage. Coffee farmers in Latin America learn to grow their beans in the shade of surrounding trees, thus producing better quality coffee and ultimately letting them turn more of a profit.

Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Guayaki’s ethical business
Yerba mate is a plant native to South America that has properties similar to caffeinated plants. People can use the leaves in a similar manner to tea leaves which steep in hot water to diffuse the taste and desired properties of the plant. In addition to the physical effects of mate, the plant has cultural significance in South American folklore. People originally discovered it in modern-day Paraguay and Southern Brazil where the natives dubbed it an herb “from the gods.” The natives imbibed it to boost physical and mental stamina, and they used it for medicinal purposes and in religious ceremonies to worship the gods. Today, Argentinians, Paraguayans and Brazilians drink it in a similar fashion to how Americans drink coffee. A couple of people can share a bowl of mate and have a chat or college students can drink it while studying for their exams. Guayaki’s ethical business produces yerba mate while giving back to its community.

Guayaki’s Business Model

Guayaki is one of the few companies that farms and sells yerba mate in the North American market. The company has established itself and its business model with respect to the native traditions people associate with mate, as well as through its efforts to promote sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices, indigenous culture resilience and ethical management and payment of its employees. Guayaki’s ethical business model focuses first and foremost on the well-being of its workers in conjunction with the environment. By 2020, Guayaki plans to restore 200,000 acres of rainforest and create 1,000 living wage jobs.

To start, Guayaki grows its mate plants in their natural state, in the shade of the dense jungle. The workers then come and harvest only the leaves and young stems by hand to make sure the plant continues to grow. They do this because modern agricultural practices may cause the original taste to deteriorate. Moreover, growing the mate in this way also guarantees that the operations put off the least amount of emissions possible.

Clean Living

In addition to simply farming sustainably, Guayaki’s ethical business practices not only meet the standards of Fair for Life and Non-GMO certifications, but they also help promote the biodiversity of the rainforest and create a carbon sink for emissions. People farm the mate through multi strata agroforestry, which is the act of combining crops with the forest canopy and creating a carbon skin that draws carbon from the atmosphere and stores it in the leaves and soil. The company conducts all packaging actions and transportation methods with 100 percent renewable energy and does all packaging with recyclable and/or compostable resources. Through these efforts, Guayaki has created a net-zero carbon emissions business.

A Company for the Community

Guayaki’s ethical business model proves to be a frontrunner with regard to the treatment of employees. The company sources all of its mate from indigenous communities, mainly in Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. In contrast to the business model of many large corporations that buy the land from local farmers outright, Guayaki pays its farmers two to three times the amount that a large company would pay to buy the land in order to ensure they do not suffer exploitation in the long run while still benefiting in the short term. As of 2017, Guayaki created almost 900 jobs among local indigenous communities that pay a comfortable living wage to the producers.

Guayaki not only treats its workers well, but it also gives back to the communities where it operates. The company donates funds to improve infrastructure and build/upkeep schools. People can make donations through the Guayaki Foundation, which also encourages local communities to plant indigenous hardwood trees. It also teaches the methods of agroecology to school children in order to give them an education that will help them with their careers later in life and make their lives much more enjoyable and livable.

Through all of Guayaki’s ethical business practices, the company is helping protect the environment while also bringing neglected populations out of poverty and into not only a survivable life but a livable and enjoyable one. Through their benefits and teaching methods, Guayaki is making sure that the people will always have the means to support themselves in an ethical, comfortable way for years to come.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in Guatemala's Coffee Industry
Many coffee consumers do not recognize what goes into making their morning cup of joe. Coffee is one of the major crops that child workers cultivate across the globe, including Guatemala, where major U.S. companies such as Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and Kirkland source their coffee beans. Guatemala is working to reverse the damage the decades-long civil war (1960 to 1996) inflicted upon its children, indigenous population and industries, but the country still needs to do a lot. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Guatemala’s coffee industry.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Guatemala’s Coffee Industry

  1. Guatemala is the ninth biggest coffee exporter in the world. Sharing 2.7 percent of the world’s coffee market, Guatemala is one of the largest coffee exporters in the world. Coffee, along with bananas, sugar and spices, accounts for 40 percent of all agricultural export revenue for the country. Major U.S. companies such as Starbucks, Kirkland and Dunkin Donuts source their coffee beans from Guatemala.
  2. The minimum employment age is 14. Guatemalan law prohibits children under the age of 14 from employment unless they are in extreme circumstances; however, the Guatemalan government has failed to enforce this labor law. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s human rights report in 2018, approximately 1 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are working in Guatemala. Child labor in Guatemala’s coffee industry is more prevalent in rural areas where extreme poverty is more common.
  3. Children as young as 5 years old are working in hazardous conditions. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s report on Guatemala’s labor condition in 2018, child coffee workers were using machetes and other tools that can pose a physical danger. Furthermore, the investigators found that child workers were also mixing and applying pesticides during their work. This is a violation of the International Labor Union’s (ILO) conventions on child labor, as it clearly puts under-aged children in work conditions that can harm their health and development.
  4. Guatemala’s child labor is linked to migrant coffee workers. Coffee harvest in Guatemala depends on a seasonal influx of migrant workers. These migrant workers come from the Guatemalan Highlands. Many migrant workers bring their wives and their children to a coffee farm. In order to increase the family income, children as young as 7 or 8 years old participate in coffee picking. Since these workers are not permanent workers, they usually do not demand year-round wages and benefits. This drives the wage down for coffee harvesters, which can limit access to food, health care, housing and education for their children.        
  5. Many coffee workers are internal migrants. The native population of Guatemala, most of whom are of Mayan descent, make up around 40 percent of the total population of the country. Many are migrant workers and they do not always speak Spanish, leaving them in a vulnerable position when negotiating labor conditions with their employers. Oftentimes, they do not receive payment for their labor, but rather buy food from the plantation owner on credit. As a result, many of these internal migrant families find themselves trapped by debt. Some plantation owners also withhold these families’ identification papers, making it extremely hard for them to leave their employers.
  6. Fluctuating coffee prices have major impacts on the poor coffee farmers and children of Guatemala. While demand for Guatemala’s coffee is increasing, many coffee farmers in Guatemala find themselves in poverty. The World Bank, in its 2019 article about Guatemala’s economy, stated that 48.8 percent of Guatemala’s population lives in poverty. When coffee prices rise, poor coffee worker families will withdraw their children from school to have them work as an extra field hand, causing an increase in child labor in Guatemala’s coffee industry. When coffee prices fall, however, these families’ income decreases, which can also prevent their children from attending school.
  7. Children work under the watch of armed guards. Danwatch’s 2016 exposé documented migrant workers and their children picking coffee under the watch of armed guards. Under these kinds of conditions, it is not surprising that organizing a labor union is a major challenge for these workers. Labor union representatives of Guatemala can sometimes become the target of violence, armed attacks and even assassination. According to data from the International Trade Union Confederation, people murdered more than 53 union representatives between 2007 and 2013. 
  8. Major companies, such as Starbucks, are working with multiple certification organizations to produce ethically sourced coffee. Since 2004, Starbucks has complied with C.A.F.E (Coffee And Farmer Equity) Practices by working with organizations such as the Fair Trade U.S.A., Fairtrade International, Rainforest Alliance and Utz. According to Conservation International’s (CI) 2018 report on the Starbucks C.A.F.E Practices from 2011 to 2015, 100 percent of the participating farms did not use children in their labor force. Furthermore, 100 percent of the participating farms ensured that children on the farm would have access to school education.
  9. The Guatemalan government has aid programs to alleviate child labor. According to the report on child labor and forced labor that the U.S. Department of Labor published in 2018, the Guatemalan government is sponsoring multiple programs that will alleviate child labor. One of these programs is the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education and Health Program (Mi Bono Seguro), which provides financial assistance to families with children as long as their children’s attendance to school is satisfactory. 
  10. Many nongovernment organizations are working to alleviate poverty for Guatemalan coffee workers. One organization, Pueblo a Pueblo, provides tools, training and support to the impoverished coffee farmers in Guatemala. One of the ways Pueblo a Pueblo does this is by teaching beekeeping to Guatemalan coffee farmers during the non-harvesting season of the year. The organization also assists Guatemalan coffee farmers impacted by the recent coffee rust epidemic. Watch this documentary for more information on Pueblo a Pueblo’s work. 

It can be easy for one to forget that a common food item, such as coffee, has a human cost in producing it. Stemming from the country’s civil war, child labor deeply links to the instability in Guatemala’s economy and government. When coffee farmers struggle to make ends meet, the danger of exploitation and violence increases for many poor coffee pickers and their children. These 10 facts about child labor in Guatemala’s coffee industry show, however, that there are many people and organizations that are working to assist children and coffee workers in Guatemala. Through financial assistance, education and training in other agricultural disciplines, a better future awaits the children of Guatemala.  

 – YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Generous Coffee Co.'s Purpose is Giving Back
Ben Higgins, a former star of “The Bachelor”, gives back through his company Generous Coffee Co. He does this with his friend and business partner Riley Fuller and they operate Generous Coffee Co. as a not-for-profit organization. The purpose that Higgins and Fuller have in mind stems from kindness, efficiency and sustainability. Generous Coffee Co.’s customers know that the company uses its profits to change lives for the better around the world

The Foundation of Generous Coffee Co.

Higgins and Fuller had the idea for Generous Coffee Co. in Honduras at the end of 2016. While having dinner, a friend asked them how Fuller’s nonprofit, Humanity and Hope United, would survive if its fundraising ran out. Fuller founded Humanity and Hope United in 2010 after a family mission trip to Honduras inspired him in 2007.

Honduras is home to 8.5 million people, but 70 percent of them earn less than $1,200 a year. The country has the highest rate of income inequality in Latin America. In rural areas, 50 percent of the population lives beneath poverty levels, which means that one in every five people make less than $1.90 a day, or less than $700 a year. Education plays a large role in continuing or ending the cycle of poverty, and the Honduran education system is doing extremely poorly; only around 30 percent of students continue to high school after sixth grade because their families cannot afford secondary school. Ninety percent of the students who stop in sixth grade have to repeat a grade at some point. Approximately 100,000 students drop out of school every year because they need to start working to help provide for their families.

Humanity of Hope United

The critical conditions for families in Honduras inspired Fuller to found Humanity of Hope United. The organization currently provides relief to multiple villages throughout Honduras by providing people with clean water, making education more accessible and working to improve employment opportunities. Humanity of Hope United has an education sponsorship program where donors sponsor children for $100 a month, which pays for a student’s food, transportation, school uniform and school supplies.

The organization also creates job opportunities with the Grand Farm, a 30-acre farm that grows crops and raises animals in a village called La Coroza. The farm currently has 126 people working on it who make around $10 a day, and about $50 for each cow that they sell on the farm. This is a significant improvement over the average $2 per day that other Honduran farmworkers make. In 2019, Humanity of Hope United reached a milestone when it exceeded its goal of raising $200,000 to purchase The Grand Farm for the people of La Coroza. In fact, the organization has raised $215,000 for the farm. Humanity of Hope’s work started the goals that Higgins and Fuller continued with Generous Coffee Co.’s “purpose, not profit” business model.

Generous Coffee Co.’s Coffee and Reach

At the beginning of the project, Higgins and Fuller invited Drew Scholl to be a partner in Generous Coffee Co. because Scholl had already tried to create a coffee company that worked with developing countries. Together, the three of them established Generous Coffee Co. in November 2017. Generous Coffee Co.’s purpose is to invest 100 percent of its profits into charity organizations to help the countries that make the company’s coffee. The company operates in Honduras, Rwanda, Colombia and Guatemala, and roasts the beans at Utopian Roasters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Higgins’ home town. All of the coffee sold by Generous Coffee Country has single, traceable origins. After roasting and packaging, the company sells its coffee directly online. Generous Coffee Co. has over 50 volunteers that help the company in its efforts to spread generosity and give back to the people who make its coffee.

Every two or three days, the company ships coffee orders to consumers and cafes. In 2018, Generous Coffee Co. launched a clothing line that sells t-shirts that single mothers in Haiti make, providing them with a living wage and retirement insurance. The company also started a program where people can go on trips with the company and opened its inaugural Generous Coffee Shop in Golden, Colorado at the Tributary Market. As Generous Coffee Co.’s purpose of giving back to its sources continues, the company aims to let people invest in the company and to expand globally into Generous International.

Purchases of Generous Coffee makes a positive impact worldwide, and its customers know that by buying from Generous Coffee Co., they are giving back to its sources.

Cyndi Payton
Photo: Wikipedia

Coffee farms fight world povertyCoffee is the world’s second-favorite drink, only behind water. In the U.S., Americans drink more than 580 million cups of coffee per day. Worldwide, more than three billion cups are consumed per day. To support the world’s love of coffee, many developing countries rely on their coffee-growing industries supported by small farmers. The majority of these small farmers, unfortunately, live in impoverished conditions. With the popularity of coffee and the market, there is a way that coffee farms can fight world poverty.

An Unsustainable Business

Small farmers produce about 80 percent of the global coffee supply. These farmers, known as smallholders, are defined as “owning small-based plots of land on which they grow subsistence crops and one or two cash crops relying almost exclusively on family labor.” An estimated 25 million smallholder farmers produce the world’s coffee supply. Unfortunately, they earn less than 10 percent per pound of the sale value of their coffee. Combined with the added costs of production, this quickly becomes an unprofitable business.

With the current situation being so hard economically, more and more coffee farmers have moved out of the industry. The past couple of years have brought drought and an increase in crop diseases like “coffee rust.” Coffee prices have dropped to a 12 year low.

Not only are farmers unable to support themselves and their families, but there are also a number of other challenges that have pushed them out of the coffee growing business. The environment in which coffee grows best requires a high altitude that is usually in remote and mountainous areas. This limits access to markets and adds the cost of transportation and middlemen. Changing weather conditions and lack of environmentally sustainable practices along with weak management and poor training have led to the inefficiency of coffee production.

In the department of Risaralda in Colombia, lies a small coffee farm known as a “Finca del Café.” Here, there are 10 hectares of land dedicated to the growth of Arabica coffee, a type of coffee that does best in the high altitude. The winding path through the Finca reveals the complex process of coffee growing that takes years of time. The farmer, who learned to grow coffee from his grandparents, expressed the unsustainability of the coffee business in 2019. They had to turn to other sources for revenue such as capitalizing on tourism of the area and building conference buildings.

Is Fair-Trade The Solution?

Despite the current situation of coffee production, the demand for the drink is increasing. If the current trend continues, there is predicted to be a shortage by 2050. In order to help small farmers and the coffee business, many companies are turning to fair-trade. According to the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics, “the promise of the fair-trade movement is that coffee growers in poor nations will receive a higher price for coffee if it is produced in better working conditions with higher wages.”

Unfortunately, no solution is perfect. Fair-trade impacts farmers by artificially raising the sale price of coffee, targetting production and not poverty. Other initiatives that focus on coffee farmers’ operations and management have shown more success. NUCAFE (National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises) works to facilitate services for Ugandan coffee farmers while having them take ownership of their crops. In Colombia, coffee farmers are investing in digital tools to better manage their farms and transactions.

Coffee and Culture

There are many coffee farms in Colombia’s Cafetero region facing these issues. While some are forced to give up coffee due to the lack of profit, others try to maintain the culture of coffee growing. Coffee farms like the aforementioned “Finca del Cafe” make it their purpose to inform others of the coffee-making process and also to bring awareness to the problems modern coffee farmers are facing.

Local coffee is sold all around the region and coffee is a large part of Colombia’s larger society. The problems encountered by coffee producers can ultimately change Colombia’s culture, a country that prides itself on its coffee.

– Margarita Orozco
Photo: Flickr