Last week in Brazil, during a workshop we organized to identify improvements on the Fair Trade standards and processes, coffee farmers and workers from three countries discussed how we could be more effective in educating the coffee industry and consumers about the challenges and opportunities that farmworkers in coffee face every day.
To learn more about the profound challenges that farmworkers in coffee face, click on the links below:
Workers and farmers at our workshop identified the lack of awareness from industry and consumers as a major obstacle to bringing true sustainability to farmworkers. Erick, a farmworker from Nicaragua told me after one of our meetings: “we need coffee companies to ask questions about the conditions of workers in coffee farms”. Jose, a farm manager said: “there is a lot more we can do to provide better conditions to farmworkers, but we need the coffee industry and consumers to do their part and recognize this work”. One of the phrases more repeated by coffee workers and farmers during our two-day workshop was: “we need to educate the coffee industry” on the challenges and opportunities that farmworkers face.
workers and farmers discuss and vote on priorities to focus on for the next months: “educate consumers and industry”
Both workers and farmers at our workshop realized the important role that the coffee industry has to play to improve the challenging situation of farmworkers in coffee. If coffee companies do not demand a fair treatment for coffee workers, the situation described here and here will not change.
So, at our workshop, coffee workers and farmers from three countries, together with our partners at United Farm Workers, created a plan that we will try implementing together during the next months. The idea of the plan is to educate coffee importers, roasters, retailers and consumers about the situation and opportunities for farmworkers in coffee. There are two main areas in this plan:
– Telling the story of farmworkers in coffee
- Working with partner organizations, we need to gather and communicate information that we can use to educate the coffee industry on the challenges that farmworkers in coffee face every day
– Gathering and communicating information about initiatives that the industry can join to change this difficult reality
- Based on the work several of these farms have been doing, we want to show that there are alternatives to the current situation of workers. Using data collected in these farms and from farmworkers, we will try to identify those alternatives that allow for improvements on the lives and working conditions of farmworkers in coffee
- We will share this information with the coffee industry at industry events
Specific initiatives in those areas were identified and we will be working on those in the next weeks and months. What I like the most about this plan is that it was created with farmers and workers themselves. I and my colleagues played a supportive role but many of the ideas and initiatives we will try implementing come from those groups of people that our organizations are trying to support. The exercise of creating this was powerful. Now we will see how effective our organizations are in implementing the ideas from the very same people we are trying to serve.