Working in the coffee industry, we are privileged to be in a position to help producers in developing countries. Many companies and organizations help farmers and mill owners finance capital improvements to their infrastructure, develop sustainable growing strategies, and strengthen their communities. Some of the most well-known programs are official certifications, such as Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Bird Friendly, and Rainforest Alliance certifications. These are all good, but they are hardly the only way people in the coffee industry are helping producers better themselves, their operations, and their communities.
Certifications Have Noble Goals
The Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Bird Friendly and Rainforest Alliance programs all have noble goals and missions that are easy to support:
- Fair Trade seeks to better small farmers in the Global South who don’t have access to things like financing and crop insurance
- Direct Trade promotes a relationship between the purchaser and farmer and provides the farmer with a greater percentage of their crop’s sale
- The Bird Friendly certification requires farmers use a combination of foliage cover, tree height and biodiversity to provide quality habitat for birds and other wildlife.
- Rainforest Alliance Certified farms adhere to environmental, economic and social criteria that promote the welfare of the land, waterways and communities near the farms
All of these missions should be supported, as they are all trying to do good in the communities and lands where coffee is grown.
Certifications Aren’t Always Attainable
Many producers, however, aren’t able to become certified -- even if they meet the necessary criteria. In some cases, such as the Fair Trade program, a farm might be doing everything the organization requires but be too large to be certified.
More frequently, producers can’t afford to be certified. Even though they need the help and may be doing everything required, all of these certifications cost money. For farmers who don’t have the capital to pay for the certification, they’re unable to qualify.
There are Other Ways of Helping Producers
Certifications should be supported, but they are not the only way of helping producers. Many efforts are unofficial and remain uncertified.
One way we have chosen to make an impact: we donate 5¢ for each pound of coffee that we roast to World Coffee Research. After visiting coffee farms and speaking directly with farmers, the biggest issue they spoke about was the uncertainty of the crop itself: dealing with drought, pests and disease. WCR funds research that helps to improve both the quality of coffee and its sustainability and resilience, especially in the face of climate change.
In addition to this donation, we:
- pay a fair and generous price for our coffees
- publish our producers’ stories each month
- have featured coffees from female-led co-ops
- seek out co-ops that invest in capital improvements and promote education
Also, we don't just seek out information from the farmers, but we strive to strengthen their connection to you! We realized that though the people who produce our coffees hear our feedback, they don't get to hear yours. That's why we started our Farmer Feedback program: through your Driftaway subscriber account, you can write your observations and experiences with a certain coffee, and we send that info directly to the farmer!
These are just some of the ways that we’re helping coffee producers, regardless of their certifications. We aren't the only ones, though. We’re happy to say that many other companies and organizations in the industry are also doing great things in coffee-growing regions, some of which are officially recognized and others of which are not. All of these efforts are worthy of praise, and we’re proud to be part of an industry doing so much good.