Published: 01/13/2006 - Updated: 07/07/2016
Coffee is the livelihood of 20 million workers of all ages, collecting more than 6 million tons of grain annually. It is estimated that, worldwide, 11 million hectares of cultivated land are devoted to coffee-an area roughly equal to the State of Ohio, or the sum of the areas of Switzerland, Belgium and Holland. However, coffee production is associated with serious social and environmental costs not reflected in the price of retail. Intensive production of coffee is a cause of deforestation, pollution by pesticides and loss of biodiversity. Coffee prices are always low, forcing many small farmers into debt, or to abandon their plots. Furthermore, plantation workers face low incomes and precarious living conditions.
There are alternatives
There are a number of initiatives currently under development to improve social and environmental conditions associated with the production of coffee. Among these alterations, there are three main types of certification initiatives under way designed to promote the development of sustainable coffee: fair coffee, organic coffee and coffee under shade. This website focuses on those initiatives that have specific rules, both social and environmental, and require the participation of third party evaluation and monitoring of production and processing of coffee.
The fair trade system was instigated in Europe and North America for international development organizations seeking to support artisans and farmers in the South. In 1946, North America, the Mennonite Agency for International Development (now known as the Mennonite Central Committee) began the first direct purchase with impoverished Latin American artisans. In Europe in 1959, Oxfam began to plan the sale of handicrafts made by Chinese refugees in its British stores, and soon, a group of Dutch activists launched the direct import of wood carvings of Haiti to help artisans to achieve economic independence. The concept behind the trade fair was to avoid middlemen and redirect a greater share of the profits to the producer.
Organic certification began in the'70s and now is the more developed initiative of coffee certification. The estimated rate of growth of the global organic market is between 20 and 30% annually. In most industrialized countries, organic products are increasingly moving from a niche market to a mainstream market. The certified organic coffee is currently grown in over 25 countries worldwide.
In a nutshell, organic coffee is coffee grown without the use of pesticides, fertilizers or other chemical additives. However, certification organizations such as organic coffee Naturland OCIA Certimex and insist on rigorous methods of soil conservation, such as the production of organic fertilizer and cultivation terraces to prevent erosion and measures to protect the channels of runoff. Most plants are grown in the shade of other trees, although this is not a criterion for organic certification.
In many countries, the term "organic" is regulated by national legislation. Producers who have put the organic label on a product must meet certain standards set by a government agency at the provincial, state or federal. In Canada, the Canadian Accounting Standards Board recently approved a national standard for organic agriculture (National Standard for Organic Agriculture), whose summary is available online. In the United States, the national standard on production and organic agriculture (National Standards on Organic Agricultural Production and Handling) is generally accepted by the organic industry. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) is responsible for the accreditation of organizations that are responsible for the certification of producers in several countries.
Usually, organic coffee growers receive a net premium ranging between $ 0.05 and $ 0.20 per pound for organic coffee, bypassing the costs of certification. However, in cases where growers do not control their own process of export and have a weak bargaining position, may receive a lower premium.
Coffee under shade
Initiatives for the cultivation of coffee under the shade of the concern arose due to the rapid deforestation occurred as a result of the spread of commercial plantations of coffee. Since 1970, the coffee plantations traditionally grown under a variety of species, are rapidly converted to crops of sun. Concerns about the impacts on biodiversity, especially bird species, led to the creation of the first certification of a growing coffee under shade in 1995.
Cultivation of shade was developed to fill a void inside of the other certification initiatives, particularly regarding the protection of biodiversity. Although most of the cafes from organic and fair trade are grown under a forest cover, this is not a criterion monitored.
Many labels currently used are not certified by third party. The only initiatives that provide shade cultivation independent verification are stamped Smithsonian "Bird Friendly" (1997) and the ECO-OK (1996).
Source: United Cafe - Information on sustainable coffee
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