Posts

The Decline of Deforestation in IndonesiaLast year, Indonesia recorded its lowest annual deforestation rate since 1990. The country lost only 285,300 acres of forest cover— a startling 75% drop from 2019. Belinda Arunarwati Margono, the Indonesian ministry’s director of forest resource monitoring, commended the country’s progress, remarking that, “in the past, we’ve often said that our deforestation was in the millions [of hectares]”, but the 2020 deforestation rate, “is remarkable for us because this is the lowest deforestation figure that we’ve ever achieved.” The decline of deforestation in Indonesia has many contributing factors that made it possible.

Causes of the Decline of Deforestation in Indonesia

Indonesia’s government attributed the drop to their several prohibited forest-clearing policies imposed last year. These include, “a permanent ban on issuing new permits to clear primary forests and peatlands; a moratorium on new oil palm plantation licenses; forest fire mitigation; a social forestry program; land rehabilitation and increased enforcement against environmental violations.”

Due to La Niña, 2020 was one of Indonesia’s rainiest years in the past four decades. As a result, deforestation from forest fires decreased significantly. Additionally, the economic fallout caused by COVID-19 slowed Indonesia’s timber production, contributing to the low deforestation rate. A researcher with Forest Watch Indonesia, Mufthi Fathul Barri, commented on the matter, “The disruption to economic activity can be seen from timber production from natural forests, which declined. In 2019, Indonesia produced timber from 8.4 million hectares of natural forests. In 2020, it was 6.6 million hectares.” As such, the very low rate of deforestation in Indonesia last year will be difficult to mimic in the near future.

Conservation Work

Yet another factor contributing to Indonesia’s declining deforestation rate is the conservation work done by advocacy groups such as Rainforest Alliance. This organization assists farm and forest communities across the island through training and certification. It successfully improves the health of the environment as well as the people. The Rainforest Alliance details their conservation efforts in Kalimantan on their website, which reads, “FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] certification significantly reduced deforestation by 5% points and air pollution by 31% compared to the rates of control villages in non-certified logging concessions.”

In addition, the Rainforest Alliance has helped educate Indonesian people on ecosystem conservation and sustainable farming. Their educational initiatives help protect the ecosystem while simultaneously administering information that can improve the livelihoods of Indonesian farmers. Overall, this aspect of the Rainforest Alliance’s mission offers considerable aid to low-income communities.

The organization’s work in Central Sulawesi has helped restore the region’s watershed, Lake Poso. This was achieved through a community-led program with the Karya Bersama cocoa cooperative in Pamona Seletan. Since the cooperative started working with Rainforest Alliance, their 500 farmers have experienced increased crop productivity, with a 20% yield increase in 2019. Rainforest Alliance’s work with the Karya Bersama cooperative shows significant potential to restore Indonesia’s ecosystem while improving the quality of life in rural communities. This can all be achieved through conservation and sustainable farming education.

Looking Ahead Amidst the Decline of Deforestation in Indonesia

Many factors caused the 75% drop in deforestation in Indonesia last year. The government’s new anti-forest-clearing policies, the rainy season and the slow in timber production due to COVID-19 all contributed. Although the climatic conditions of 2020 and the economic lull offered favorable circumstances for a decrease in deforestation, the Indonesian government, along with organizations can not be discounted for their tremendous efforts. Hopefully, Indonesia can continue the favorable trend into the future.

– Eliza Kirk
Photo:Flickr

coffee in vietnamThe comforting routine of having a rich cup of coffee in the morning is a habit shared by numerous people around the world. Unique flavors and distinctive brews come from various countries such as Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia. Vietnam, once an underdog in the coffee industry, has now become one of the top coffee exporters in the world. As a new major contender in the international coffee trade, Vietnam faces new economic opportunities moving forward. Importantly, coffee in Vietnam has the potential for reducing poverty.

How Coffee in Vietnam Took Root

French colonists introduced coffee in Vietnam in 1857. The central highlands region, Buon Ma Thuot, had ideal growing conditions for the crop. Accordingly, it became a target region for coffee cultivation. Growing coffee in Vietnam proved to be difficult yet promising. The government encouraged citizen migration to rural regions such as Buon Ma Thot, which gained a 265% increase in the overall population. By the end of 2000, over 4 million people settled in this area, which created a new and expansive workforce for the coffee industry. This new workforce, combined with the government’s coffee-growing program and the increased demand for coffee worldwide, created a boom in Vietnam’s economy.

In the span of just two decades, Vietnam became one of the most competitive coffee producers in the world. It now ranks as the 2nd largest coffee exporter behind Brazil. Starting with 8,400 tons of coffee produced in 1980, production numbers skyrocketed to 900,000 by 2000. Coffee production has contributed to Vietnam’s GDP increasing by 7.7% within the past few years. Unexpectedly, coffee became an important player in the Vietnamese economy.

Challenges Brewing Within the Industry

Two main types of coffee beans, Robusta and Arabica, compose most of the beans exported by countries worldwide. Currently, 95% of Vietnamese coffee exports are Robusta, known as lower quality beans. As a result, the success of Robusta in the market depends on fluctuations in global demand. Vietnam’s coffee industry must account for this variable by improving the flavor and quality of beans harvested in Buon Ma Thuot to remain competitive in the worldwide market.

But remaining competitive in the market is no easy task. Unlike globally known brands such as 100% Colombian coffee, Vietnam still needs to establish its trademark in the international market. Currently, processed coffee accounts for only 7% of Vietnam’s exports. Increasing coffee processing by establishing joint ventures with known retailers and roasters could create new opportunities for the industry. If Vietnamese brands become household names, Vietnamese coffee can garner substantially greater profit margins in the global market.

In addition to increasing coffee quality and ameliorating marketing tactics, Vietnam’s farming strategies must improve. Though Robusta is typically more resilient to environmental stressors, such as hot climates, pests and disease, this coffee crop is still susceptible to the dangers of unsustainable farming practices. Farming strategies that rely on intensive irrigation and the overuse of fertilizers can exhaust soil quality.

To combat land degradation, Vietnam’s government collaborates with global companies such as Kraft Foods and Nestlé. It also works with conservation organizations such as the 4C Association, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade Foundation. Together, they educate farmers, improve farming practices and establish an agricultural standard. This works to effectively and sustainably increase the production of coffee in Vietnam.

Solving Poverty One Cup at a Time

The significant surge in coffee production in Vietnam also means countless farmers and citizens gain a newfound source of income. With only 6% of total coffee production used domestically, coffee has become Vietnam’s key export. Coffee production provides a livelihood for around 2.6 million people. Importantly, 600,000 of these individuals are small-scale farmers, many of whom belong to underrepresented social groups.

This emerging industry has allowed Vietnam’s economy to vastly improve within a short span of time. Economic growth continuously boosts Vietnamese citizens’ quality of life. In 1994, Vietnam’s poverty rate was at 90%. As of 2020, the poverty rate has lowered to 23%.

Global corporations also take part in developing Vietnam’s coffee industry and helping farmers. Nestlé and Mondelez International have each invested more than $200 million in training farmers to distribute stable supplies of coffee. In 2015, Starbucks introduced Vietnam Da Lat, its first single-origin coffee from Vietnam, to its locations in more than 50 countries. Altogether, more than 21,000 farmers benefited from foreign investments in this booming industry.

Overall, coffee in Vietnam is a growing industry with many future possibilities. With the right policies and guidance, Vietnam’s coffee industry can further improve its economy, provide income opportunities and increase standards of living for countless communities nationwide.

-Vanna Figueroa
Photo: flicker

Coffee Production
Partnering with the nongovernmental organization (NGO) TechnoServe, Swiss coffee company Nespresso has worked in East Africa since 2015. It works to boost sustainability in coffee production and power small coffee farmers. The company also looks to increase sustainability by working with the Rainforest Alliance, another NGO. In 2018, Nespresso launched its AAA Sustainability Program in Zimbabwe. It focuses on training farmers and providing technical expertise and agronomic advice. Although it has found multiple programs worldwide, Zimbabwe was chosen explicitly after droughts and economic instability destroyed its capabilities to cultivate the cash crop.

The Economy of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s economy saw a 231 million percent inflation in July 2008 after a land reform program passed, causing its economy to crash. According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe’s GDP fell by 8.1% in 2019 and has continued to fall due to COVID-19. In 2019, 6.6 million of Zimbabwe’s residents were extremely poor and food poverty was prevalent.

However, around 17% of Zimbabwe’s GDP is agricultural, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Coffee is a vital crop to the GDP. At peak production in 1989, Zimbabwe produced 15,000 tons of coffee. It sunk to 500 tons in 2017, according to the Telegraph. The loss of this significant part of the economy pushed millions into poverty and took away many jobs.

Understanding the Country’s Environment

Zimbabwe’s environment is ideal for cultivating coffee. It has cold temperatures, lots of rainfall and fertile lands. Coffee production has fallen mostly due to a lack of knowledge about growing the plant and droughts brought on by global warming. Coffee is a delicate tree, taking between two and three years to start flowering and nine months following this to have harvestable cherries. This is why Nespresso’s programs work to educate on sustainability and provide raw funds for farmers to use amongst economic instability.

In training, the main points of contention are drilling holes to plant trees, shading the trees properly and pruning branches. They also include eliminating bugs and disease, watching soil deficiencies and crop hygiene, according to National Geographic. The temperamental nature of coffee makes it essential to know exactly how to sustain it in the best way using efficient machinery and methods.

The Benefits of Nespresso

Nespresso plans to invest 1.3 million euros. It pays farmers in U.S. dollars instead of the Bond Notes that many use instead of currency. This allows them to buy better products and services globally. This will not only work to revitalize the economy through spending, but it will increase agricultural exports. The program currently works with over 2,000 farmers, training them on how to grow and paying them above-market rates for the coffee.

Since Nespresso has started working with these farmers, there was a 7% increase in production. Also, quality has risen by 51%. According to the Telegraph, Zimbabwe could soon double its coffee production, reaching 10,000 tons of coffee shortly. Furthermore, AAA programs have specifically targeted female farmers to provide equal opportunities, with 47% of the farmers being female.

In the long term, increased coffee production could help the country in multiple ways. Along with a GDP boost and increased jobs, the stimulation of coffee products helps put more children in school, provide healthcare access, increase efficiency and equipment and preserve biodiversity.

Overall, for those living in poverty in Zimbabwe, the rise of the crop that once drove the economy will provide immense relief. By bringing stability, jobs and globalization, the door to better opportunities starts with coffee. Nespresso’s program has opened that door to many small farmers in Zimbabwe.

– Nitya Marimuthu
Photo: Pixabay

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