Isn’t it great to start your day with a cup of coffee?
Yes, there's nothing as refreshing as the aroma of a freshly brewed coffee. But did you know that a coffee grower somewhere on the Earth has worked really hard for a very long time to bring you a perfect cup of coffee? Maybe you didn’t.
It would be shocking to know that the farming community struggles with extreme poverty and weak social infrastructure while devoting their entire lives to the cultivation of coffee. The highly volatile coffee market has a direct impact on the housing, food, education, healthcare, and other necessities of the farmers and their families
Coffee farming communities put in a lot of effort to bring you the best coffee by cultivating, nurturing, and harvesting the coffee plants in different stages. Deriving a stable income from coffee cultivation was quite easy in the past. But now it has become a universal challenge for the coffee farmers. They are dealing with an aggressive production system and a declining income in the present years.
Challenges Faced by the Coffee Farming Communities
Coffee farmers are one of the most underpaid communities of farmers from a rich industry. The economic foundation of farmers is challenged by the climatic changes, lack of labor supply, low wages, unavailability of labor contracts, attack of pests, and other diseases.
Climatic changes are what no one can predict. But when it comes to the coffee business, it becomes a serious affair. Rising temperatures and new rainfall patterns are two of the grave conditions that a coffee farmer is always worried about.
For over a century, coffee farmers have been suffering from economic losses due to pests and fungi. La Roya or coffee leaf rust is a fungal disease and La Broca is the attack of a pest that affects the growth of the coffee plants.
Apart from the destruction of crops by climatic changes and attack of pests, the economic stability of the coffee farmers is weakened by the lack of workers and good working conditions. Coffee plantation owners find it very difficult to hire workers for coffee picking. The coffee pickers have to work 8 hours a day and are paid based on the weight of the collected cherries. It is done in the harvest season which lasts only for a few months. All the other times the laborers have a very scarce income which demands them to travel from one place to the other following the harvests.
Another problem they have to worry about is the laws regarding coffee farming. These laws state that farmers and workers must be registered to the government to get health, job, and retirement benefits. But this is not always followed in the coffee industry. Studies by investigative researchers have found that many producers offer higher payments to farmers to work without any contracts. The laborers are convinced with better payments which puts them at greater risk.
Even if the coffee producers find workers for the harvest season, they find it difficult to pay the workers as they are very often close to poverty. They struggle to provide good pay and safe working conditions. The workers who work seasonally are provided with housing near the plantations. These houses are often crowded and shared by several families. The workers sometimes lack access to clean drinking water and hygienic sanitation facilities.
The condition of the workers becomes worsened when they risk their health by coming in direct contact with the chemical pesticides and fertilizers without any protective equipment. This makes them susceptible to pesticide poisoning and increases the risk of cancer.
Image by ningxin23minor from Pixabay
Giving Back to the Farming Community
Since the coffee farming communities exert so much effort for us, it is a great necessity to give them back for their struggles. The governments of some coffee-growing countries provide subsidies to the farmers to encourage coffee cultivation. There are several NGOs working for the upliftment of the coffee growing community that provides for the healthcare, education, and housing of the farmers and their families. Laughing Man coffee community is one among them which tries to empower the farmers by upgrading their social, economic, and cultural development.
Do you think financial support can be the only help that we can offer to these farmers to gain better productivity? If your answer is ‘No’, you are right.
Coffee institutes and their laboratories are developing methods to prevent leaf rust by involving new disease-resistant plants replacing old ones and training farmers in new fertilization methods to reduce infestation. Secondly, educating the farmer community in the field of agronomy is helping them to adopt organic measures to protect their crops.
We can build a strong coffee farming community by promoting sustainable farming methods in coffee cultivation. We need to adopt sustainable farming techniques as it not only brings economic stability to the farmers but also ensures the protection of our environment.
Making the farmers aware of the practices such as the use of 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 the coffee plants.
Better working conditions are as relevant as better payments in the coffee farming community. Laughing Man’s commitment to the coffee farming community is not restricted to the economic development of the farmers but also to the social upbringing of each farmer's families. We are currently partnering with Fair Trade US to invest in housing improvements and college scholarships for the COOCENTRAL Coop in Huila, Colombia because we care about the coffee community just like we care about your coffee.