It just feels right to start the day with a cup of coffee. The refreshing aroma, the warmth of it - it’s a sacred part of our mornings. But how much do you know about the plant and farmers that produced the beans making up your cup?
The communities that farm coffee often struggle with extreme poverty and weak social infrastructure. The coffee market is highly volatile as well, and this unpredictability has a direct effect on the housing, food, education, healthcare, and other necessities available to the farmers and their families.
Coffee farming communities put in a lot of hard work to bring you the best coffee they can. They nurture and cultivate the coffee plant through all its stages before harvesting it. In the past, deriving a stable income from this used to be easy. But over time it’s become a universal challenge faced by all coffee farmers as they face an aggressive production system and declining income.
Challenges Faced by the Coffee Farming Communities
Coffee farmers are one of the most underpaid communities within the coffee industry. Their economic stability is threatened by climate change, lack of labor supply, low wages, unavailability of labor contracts, unpredictable pest issues, and plant diseases.
Climate change in particular has posed a challenge to coffee farmers. Rising temperatures and new rainfall patterns change how coffee grows, and has an impact on the pests that farmers must deal with in their crop. For over a century, coffee farmers have suffered economic losses due to pests and fungi such as La Roya (coffee leaf rust) and La Broca (a pest that attacks coffee plants).
Lack of workers and good working conditions are another challenge facing coffee farmers. Coffee plantation owners find it difficult to hire enough workers, and the workers themselves must work 8 hours a day and are only paid based on the weight of the cherries they pick. The harvest season that they work during only lasts a few months as well. Outside of this season, the laborers have very little income, and must travel from place to place for harvests.
The laws regarding coffee farming also complicate things for farmers. These laws require farmers and workers to be registered with the government in order to get health and retirement benefits. But these laws are not always followed within the industry. Studieshave found that many producers will offer higher pay to farmers who are willing to work without contracts. The laborers often take the payments even though they pose a higher risk.
Even if the producers find workers for the season, they often struggle to pay them and provide safe working conditions. The seasonal workers are provided with housing near the plantations. These homes are often crowded and shared between multiple families. The workers also sometimes lack access to clean drinking water and hygienic sanitation facilities.
The workers’ health is further jeopardized when they come into contact with chemical pesticides and fertilizers, often without any protective equipment. This increases their risk of cancer and puts them at risk of pesticide poisoning.
Giving Back to the Coffee Farming Community
Coffee farming communities provide us with one of our most beloved morning rituals, and so it’s essential that we give back to them in order to honor the work they do for us.
Governments in some coffee farming countries provide subsidies to the farmers in order to encourage coffee cultivation. Several NGOs also work for the upliftment of the coffee growing community, helping to provide healthcare, education, and housing for the farmers and their families. Here atLaughing Man Coffee, we seek to empower farmers by contributing to their social, economic, and cultural development.
Financial support isn’t the only thing we can offer to farmers, however.
Coffee institutions and laboratories are developing methods to prevent leaf rust by introducing new disease-resistant plants and training farmers in new fertilization methods that reduce infestations. Educating farmers in agronomy can also help them to adopt organic measures to protect their crops.
Promotingsustainable farming is another way for us to build a strong coffee farming community. Adopting sustainable practices brings economic stability to the farmers, and also ensures the protection of the environment that they grow their beans in.
Helping farmers to become aware of practices such as using natural fertilizers, intercrop rotation, reuse of coffee husks as heating fuel, solar coffee dryers, and renewable resources will help them to increase the productivity of their coffee plants.
Laughing Man Coffee’s commitment to the coffee farming community extends beyond the economic development of the farmers - we work to expand the social and educational opportunities available to the farmers and their families as well. We are currently partnered with Fair Trade US to invest in housing improvements and college scholarships for COOCENTRAL cooperative in Huila, Colombia, because we care about the coffee community just as much as we care about providing you with quality coffee.