Since the turn of the century, the coffee industry has seen the rise of certification and verification programs, each aimed at creating a set of social and environmental standards that farmers must adhere to in order to meet the rising demand in consuming markets for ethically sourced goods. Farmers, in turn, expect to receive a price premium for their produce under the seal they choose.
Coffee roasters buy that seal in order to declare that their supply chains are socially and environmentally compliant to a set of international standards.
In truth, for many smallholder farmers, certification programs present a barrier to market entry – thousands of smallholder farmers often produce little more than a few tons of coffee between them. It’s not economically viable for them to carry the prohibitive costs associated with obtaining the certification. The result is that the very certifications aimed at rewarding farmers are, by-and-large, failing to reach those people most in need.
By not obtaining a seal, these farmers are excluded from the growing number of roasting companies that require them. Their market options are diminishing.
We do not accept this status quo. We are going to continue to work to create opportunity for coffee farming communities to benefit from the growing world demand for ethically sourced and certified coffees.
Our sister companies in Rwanda and Tanzania, (Rwanda Trading Company and Tembo Coffee Company) are pioneers in farmer resilience. Through an intensive two-year, 20 module agri-business training program, they are preparing more than 14,000 coffee households to be “certification ready.” Farmers are trained on Good Agricultural Practices, compliant to both Sustainable Agricultural Network and Conservation International standards.
Once the farmers have graduated from the program, Falcon takes the coffee to market, offering to pay for the required seal audit, if roasters are willing to buy the coffee. This way we harness market forces to drive our investment, where the future business allows farmers to recover the cost of the initial investment we make on their behalf.
In Latin America, we have entered origin on a collaborative basis with our roaster clients and social impact lenders, gathering groups of farmers from single communities together, to service particular roasters’ needs.
The volume and quality of coffee required by a particular roaster dictates where we go and how many people we work with. A baseline study reveals the places of greatest vulnerability for that community. Through grant funding and price premiums, we design and implement training programs with a focus on agronomy training and financial literacy.
Our path to building sustainable supply chains requires that everyone is committed to the long term viability of everyone else. Social, environmental and economic.