If you drink a few of the more than two billion cups of coffee drunk around the world each day, you may well wonder where that coffee comes from. How are the farmers who grow it faring? What impact does it all have on the world?
There is plenty we can all do as individuals to reduce the impact our coffee has on the environment. Buying a reusable cup, recycling packaging and only boiling as much water as you need each time all help in their own small way.
But what about the companies that make your brew? As the world’s largest coffee company, Nestlé buys more coffee beans than anyone else. That means it can make a big difference and has a great opportunity to be a positive influence.
Here are 5 ways your morning brew is an active force for good.
Coffee production employs millions of people around the world. The crop supports livelihoods, pays school fees and feeds families in many areas that have the greatest need.
But we can’t take the future of the coffee industry for granted. Climate change, crop disease, poor farming techniques and mass migration from farming regions to cities are all threatening its future.
Making sure there are jobs in the future isn’t simply about helping farmers grow more coffee in the short term. It’s about making coffee farming a job people can be proud of - one that their children will want to continue.
It’s about training over 10,000 coffee farmers a year in sustainable farming methods that will give them better yields and higher income. It’s about a genuine long-term commitment to help.
2. Equal rights
Coffee farming is seen a man’s job in many parts of the world, but it doesn’t have to be. In Kenya, for example, there are women coffee growers, but they’re not always given the chance to be leaders within the industry.
That’s why the Nestlé gender and youth training program was created.
The project trains women from coffee growing co-operatives to become ‘promoter farmers’. They are taught everything from coffee production to leadership and health education. They then share that knowledge and skills with their communities to educate their peers.
Results have shown a significant number of women coming forward to join coffee farming. In the first three years, the training led to the coffee yields of women promoters increasing by an average of 83%.
3. Poverty reduction
Coffee farmers are highly dependent on the price of the raw product on the world market. Fluctuations can make it hard for them to invest in the next year’s crop. In the past, sharp drops in the coffee price have put many small farmers out of business.
By helping coffee farmers improve efficiency, reduce costs and improve the quality of their crop, they become less affected by price fluctuations.
For example, in the Philippines Nescafé has ongoing soil and water conservation programs in coffee farms throughout the region, which are proving to be especially beneficial during the dry months of the year.
The program focuses on encouraging coffee farmers to grow the plant Jatropha Curcas, known locally as “tuba-tuba”, as a secondary crop. As a good source of glycerol and bio-diesel, Jatropha Curcas can provide additional income while also preventing soil erosion.
Offering microfinance schemes to farmers also helps them plan ahead. It means not having to wait for a 'good' year to invest in the future.
Projects to improve education, public health and water supply in coffee growing regions are also helping to reduce poverty.
4. The environment
In recent decades, concern about the effects of coffee production on the environment and economy of developing countries has driven the growth of sustainable coffee.
Sustainability – the capacity of an environment or a system to remain diverse and productive over a long period – depends on many factors.
Nescafé promotes sustainable agriculture by training farmers on how to conserve water, and how to clean and recycle water used in the milling process.
The Rainforest Alliance is a global charity working to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods. The Sustainable Agriculture Network is a group of charities encouraging rural development and biodiversity.
Under the Nescafé Plan, experienced agricultural specialists from both groups have been working with Nescafé to blend modern scientific methods with the traditional wisdom of farmers. This helps farmers conserve natural resources, protect ecosystems and improve quality and diversify.
That’s why the Nescafé Plan was developed. It’s a commitment to invest over CHF 260 million (AUD 340m) in coffee projects worldwide between 2010 and 2020 to help support the long-term sustainability of coffee growing.
5. Future harvests
When coffee trees get old, the number of beans they produce drops and they become vulnerable to disease.
In Colombia, for example, a disease called leaf rust has affected coffee farms in recent years, severely impacting the quality and productivity of those coffee trees.
That’s why Nescafé is working in Colombia with the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation to improve coffee growers’ tree stocks.
Nestlé has provided 28 million new high-yield, leaf rust resistant trees to Colombian farmers. There are given free of charge and with no obligation to sell coffee back to Nescafé.
These trees, grown from seed in local nurseries, are more productive, boosting the farmers’ incomes and future security while helping ensure high quality harvests. Overall, more than 4,400 hectares of coffee field have been renovated with rust-resistant trees.
There’s a lot to like about coffee, and a lot of good coffee production can do. For all these reasons, as you enjoy your morning cuppa rest assured it’s not just you benefitting from it.