The UTZ program, now part of Rainforest Alliance, adopts a balanced approach to sustainability that takes into account the three pillars of people, planet and profit. Today we talk to Henriette Walz, Global Lead Deforestation, about the environmental pillar through the lens of our coffee program. She explains in concrete terms why sourcing sustainable coffee is better for the environment.
Sustainable coffee helps farmers better manage wastewater
Approximately two thirds of coffee beans are processed through a technique called the wet process. This process removes the coffee bean from the husk and pulp using large amounts of water. “The polluted wastewater then often flows back into nature, contaminating the surrounding environment and water people use to drink, wash and play in,” Henriette explains.
Farmers are trained to implement better water management techniques to tackle the problems created through wet processing. These techniques include; keeping clean water separated from contaminated water, reducing water use through recycling water whenever possible during wet processing and by implementing a water treatment system to eliminate or reduce pollution caused by wastewater.
Change in action
The wastewater project in Central America is a prime example of how wastewater can be repurposed and put to good use. The project turned wastewater from coffee production into safe, renewable energy that local families could use to power their stoves or farm machinery.
Marvin Mairena, a farmer and agronomist who was involved with the project, explained the dramatic changes they saw:
“In the first year the system reduced the levels of [water] contamination by 81.3%. We used to use around 1,500 liters of water per 46 kilograms of pre-pulped coffee. Now we only use 250 liters.”
Coffee farmer Jeremias Benitez Díaz from Honduras is also seeing the benefits of a sustainable approach. He explains why it’s so important to protect the environment and talks about the transformation he’s witnessed:
Sustainable coffee helps farmers adapt to climate change
Another issue facing coffee farmers is climate change. “Coffee needs very specific environmental conditions to thrive,” Henriette says. “As climate change becomes a growing concern, coffee production is increasingly being impacted by rising temperatures, unpredictable rainfall, droughts and other environmental issues, like pests and diseases.”
Farmers are trained to address these problems by learning methods that can help them adapt to climate change in addition to methods that can help them reduce their negative impact on the climate.
Henriette: “Farmers can adopt good agricultural practices to better cope with the effects of climate change include things like planting shade trees, implementing efficient irrigation methods and covering the soil with compost to make it more resilient.”
But the UTZ program, now part of Rainforest Alliance, doesn’t stop there. “It’s also vital that we help farmers make risk assessments for their own situation so they can be aware of the effects of climate change in their region and identify the specific measures they want to implement,” Henriette explains. “Showing farmers how to keep records of things like rainfall is one example of ways we can help them decide which measures to adopt.”
By sourcing Rainforest Alliance certified coffee, St Remio is supporting the protection of the environment in and around coffee farms across the globe.
This year we are continuing our funding for Cocagi Femme. Due to climate issues and COVID-19, this coffee community faced some big challenges that destroyed some of the crops we purchased and donated to them last year.
So to ensure, this project is a success, we are back supporting them, replenishing crops that were destroyed, buying an additional 2 hectares of land, fertiliser for the whole 6 hectares of land, additional coffee seedlings and sunflowers to they can earn additional money from the land while they are establishing the coffee plantation.
Cocagi have been busy preparing the original 4 hectares of land (including weeding, purchasing liquid organic fertilizer and mulching) before planting 7318 coffee trees to ensure a healthy crop. They are now on track to plant the remaining 2,682 coffee trees by the end of January totalling 10,000 new coffee plants. They are still looking to secure the new 2 hectares of land which they have planned to use for both coffee and bananas, hopefully by our next report this will be secured and land preparation will be underway for this new addition!
As well as prepping the land and planting the coffee plants, the community have also been preparing the land to include sunflowers after severe weather destroyed the tomato crops last year. Plant diversification is very important to ensure that the women can secure an alternate source of income while the crops are being established. It also diversifies the risk of reliance on one crop and is an important aspect that is taught by Rainforest Alliance to these communities to ensure they can continually make money from the land and support their families.
As part of our support, we also invest in training for the Cocagi Femme who together with the support of Rainforest Alliance teach the community about leadership, gender equality, trade and marketing of their coffee. We also funded the cost of two female agronomists to assist the farming project. An agronomist are plant and soil scientists who work with the cooperative on the most up-to-date farming practices to boost crop yields while managing weeds, pest control and working in alignment with the surrounding environment.
As we have seen, no project is free from challenges like unpredictable weather, but so far, the project is moving forward without any issues. Thank you to our customers for buying St Remio. Your support is allowing us to fund this community and empower them in business and support their families. Coffee is the lifeline of many communities and your support will ensure that these communities can thrive and we can enjoy coffee for years to come.
Thank you to Rainforest Alliance for their support in this project too. This is a partnership we are so proud to be aligned with.
This year we have all faced some pretty serious challenges and none more-so than COVID-19. Every country has been impacted and its effects have and will continue to be felt for years to come. So while we feel the challenges at home, what impact does the pandemic have in other countries?
According to Beanscene article, “The risk posed by COVID-19 on Africa’s agricultural sector remains critical, given the sector accounts for 23%of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product, with food and agricultural exports averaging US$35 billion to US$40 billion annually.”(Building a post-COVID -19 resilience for Africa’s coffee sector, Beanscene Magazine 2020)
Each year, Africa’s agricultural products (including coffee) are worth US $8 billion and it is believed the pandemic will not only impact the country’s earning capacity between US$100 million -$200 million, but also will have a direct impact on close to 7 million people’s jobs in the coffee sector.
Going hand-in-hand with a pandemic, the other massive issue facing farmers is global warming and the unpredictable seasons which (specifically in Rwanda), caused massive flooding which saw crops we had invested in last year for the female farming co-operative of Cocagi totally destroyed.
So to ensure the project we started with Cocagi, reaches its full potential, we are continuing to funding this community again this year. We will be purchasing them an additional 2 hectares of land, 8500 coffee seedlings, fertilizers for the full 6 hectares of land, other plants (sunflowers and bananas to replace the destroyed crops) and additional training.
The group is supported by Rainforest Alliance and as part of that, they have learned the value in crop diversification which is why we have invested in the additional banana and sunflower crops. This will allow the women to sell product to the local markets and the training will teach them how to produce sunflower oil again for the domestic market. Not only does it take 3 years for coffee crops to establish itself, but it means that they are able to make money from the land immediately and diversify their risk should a crop be destroyed by weather again.
We are committed to seeing this project reach its full potential for the group and the addition of more land again will assist them in growing their capacity to sell to international markets and earn more income for their community.
Again, we are grateful to all our customers, returning and new ones, who support us. Because this project is all funded by YOU through your purchase. We have big ideas to do more and as we grow as a brand, we are excited by the prospect of being able to support more coffee growing communities around the world.
Make sure you follow the progress by following us on Instagram and Facebook. Thank you to Rainforest Alliance for again supporting us with this project.
This World Coffee Day, we are launching a new initiative to raise even more funds for the female farming community of Cocagi, Rwanda. We will be donating an addition 50c from every box of compatible capsules sold at all Coles Stores nationally (from our new Nespresso®* compatible Industrial Compostable & biodegradable range, as well as our Express®* and Caffitaly ®* range) directly to support and empower the female farmers of Cocagi Femme.
We will also be running this program on line for the day as well and alongside the 50c from all compatible capsules sold via our online store, we will also donate $1 from all beans and ground coffee to the cause as well.
Each year, our aim will be to grow this program, get more of our retailers on board and make this a big additional fundraising day for the community on top of our committed project funds.
Our aim at St Remio has always been to change the conversation and to make consumers think about where their coffee is from and impact their coffee has on the lives of others. It is their livelihoods, it is funding the next generation and we need to ensure that not only do the farmers earn what they should for their coffee crops, but that we invest in their development and empower them in business so they have greater access and reach to international markets.
We enjoy coffee anyway, so why not try St Remio today and allow your purchase to have a positive impact on this community! Thank you for your support!