The best way to support small coffee farmers is through buying Fair Trade coffee.
When you do that, $1.40 per pound goes to the farmer. And that’s a great deal more than coffee farmers usually get, once the various middlemen have taken their cut.
However, for all its strengths and benefits, the Fair Trade movement has its own set of rules and regulations.
For a small farmer to be certified and accepted, he has to belong to a local cooperative. There are other conditions too, but this one is the most significant.
So when you buy a pound of Fair Trade coffee, the money doesn’t go directly into the hands of the farmer, but goes to the cooperative, where the totals are distributed among the members.
In addition, there has been a growing level of confusion around the Fair Trade movement over the last 10 years. There have been plenty of arguments over the rules, and the small farmers haven't always come out on top.
What about small coffee farmers who are not part of a certified cooperative?
Good question. Not all farmers even have the option. It may be that there are no cooperatives in that region, or even help and support in forming one and having it certified.
So what can you do?
Buy the best beans you can afford.
Buying quality coffee beans has an important trickle-down effect. It means that pressure is being applied to coffee growing regions to improve their growing and processing practices. It also means that part of the premium price you pay will eventually find its way into the hands of the farmer.
Buying good coffee shifts the market demand a little. It means that coffee companies, processors and even local government will recognize that unless they produce a premium crop, they will find it harder and harder to find buyers.
This, in turn, puts them under pressure to help small coffee growers improve their crops.
We have an extraordinary opportunity to do good...
The simple act of buying a pound of coffee beans to enjoy at home gives us real opportunity to improve the lives of poor coffee farmers in developing countries.
There is no other product we buy, so frequently, that can be used as an instrument of positive change.
Every cup of coffee we drink gives the world a little nudge, and can improve the lives of people thousands of miles away from where we live.
Whenever you can, buy Fair Trade coffee, or at least buy quality coffee beans. Every time you do, you’ll be helping a small coffee farmer, his family and his community.
About the author: Nick Usborne, aka Coffee Detective, is a writer and long-time coffee enthusiast. Read more…