According to legend, in approximately 800 A.D., the energizing effects of coffee were first discovered by a goat-herder—or more precisely, by the goats in present day Ethiopia. Coffee is grown in many countries around the world, but its roots can be traced to the ancient coffee forests of Ethiopia. With more than 500 billion cups consumed annually, coffee is the most popular beverage in the world. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 150 million people drink an average of 3.1 cups of coffee per day.
Coffee remains one of the most important sources of export income for East African nations of Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. With more than 6,000 varieties to its name, Ethiopia is the largest coffee producer in Africa. Yet is only the ninth largest exporter, partially because Ethiopians consume as much as they export. For Ethiopians, coffee is more than just a beverage to drink, it is a way of life. Smallholder farmers grow almost 90 percent of Ethiopia’s coffee on more than 500,000 hectares of land. Coffee sustains the livelihood of over 15 million Ethiopians. In Guatemala, coffee production has undergone a dramatic transformation over the last twenty years.
The changing tastes among northern consumers have driven new demand for high-quality, Strictly Hard Bean coffees in Guatemala that are grown above 4,500 feet. As a result, many of the large, lower-altitude plantations long synonymous with coffee in this area have abandoned production, moving into rubber, African palm and other crops. At least 50,000 mostly smallholding farmers in the highlands have begun growing coffee to fill this market niche. Plus, in the aftermath of price collapses in 1993 and again in 2001, the coffee trade in Guatemala and elsewhere in Latin America has been dramatically transformed. Coffee production in Guatemala was a highly concentrated industry composed of a small number of very large producers; these cafetaleros operated privately owned plantations and depended on temporary migrant labor to deliver their high-volume, low-cost commodity product.
Supporting the coffee industry in both Ethiopia and Guatemala, 200 000 trees have been planted by Nespresso and partner Pur Projet since the start of 2015 to help benefit over 600 local coffee farmers. This agroforestry initiative is part of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program in coffee producing countries and is meant to improve soil fertility and productivity of coffee farms by providing shade for coffee trees and prevent landslides on community land. These new trees will also provide income diversification to farmers through the sales of fruit and timber.
This AAA Program invests in community, pays price premiums for superior coffee and best agricultural practices and provides farmers with trainings and technical assistance to continuously improve their performance in each of the three A’s of the program: quality, sustainability and productivity. As one of the most valuable commodities exported from developing countries, it’s vital the relationship between farmers and the coffee brands they supply is closely scrutinized. It is also important that these brands are extremely supportive of these small farmers.
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