2013 scientific study, Thin Months Revisited, reveals encouraging signs in Mexico and Central America coffeelands
WATERBURY, Vt.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. (NASDAQ:GMCR), in partnership with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG) of the University of Vermont, announced today the results of a 2013 scientific study entitled Thin Months Revisited. The research reexamines the livelihoods of smallholder coffee-growing families in Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua to understand how farmer welfare has changed in comparison with a 2007 baseline study in the same countries.
The 2007 study, led by CIAT researchers with participation from the Keurig Green Mountain Supply Chain Outreach team, was intended to determine the state of affairs for coffee farmers in Latin American communities where the company sources its coffee. More than 100 smallholder coffee farmers were interviewed about their livelihoods and researchers found that seasonal hunger was a major concern for the company’s agricultural supply chain.
“These results had a sobering effect on us and on many others in the Fair Trade coffee movement,” said Rick Peyser, Director of Social Advocacy and Supply Chain Community Outreach at Keurig Green Mountain. Sixty-seven percent of the coffee farmers surveyed were experiencing extreme food scarcity for three to eight months of the year, known as the “thin months” or los meses flacos in Spanish. This refers to a several month period when coffee earnings run out before the next harvest, resulting in a time of seasonal hunger.
In response to these 2007 findings, Keurig Green Mountain established a strategic, research-based and farmer-advised approach to combat food security, with initiatives designed to increase home food production, improve food storage capabilities, provide farmers with tools and training to diversify income, expand access to market and increase coffee yields from better growing practices. Over the past three years, the company has directed more than $15 million toward food security programming in its supply chain, with a particular focus in the three research countries. Keurig Green Mountain has also galvanized the coffee industry behind this issue through a film called “After the Harvest.”
In 2013, with the help of ARLG, CIAT and Keurig Green Mountain returned to Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua to interview many of the same participants from the original study. The 2013 results show advancements in food security since 2007, which may be partially attributed to initiatives that companies like Keurig Green Mountain have invested in over the past several years.
“Our study was able to provide a direct link between the projects that Keurig Green Mountain funded and a reduction in the number of thin months experienced by some families in Chiapas and Nicaragua. In Chiapas specifically, families participating in food security projects decreased the number of thin months twice as much as those who did not participate,” said Ernesto Méndez, UVM professor and lead of the Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG).
“The new study offers irrefutable evidence that the situation had improved for most families over the last six years, particularly with respect to food security. Across study locations, the average number of thin months has declined from 3.81 in 2007 to 2.83 today,” said Peter Läderach, a CIAT scientist and one of the research leaders. Some of the improvements revealed in Thin Months Revisited included examples of families who increased their number of income sources, often by incorporating food crops in their farming activities.
By adding more diverse crops that can be consumed or sold, families are more resilient to extreme changes in coffee prices and have steadier incomes year-round. “Diversifying into other crops helps smooth out household income across the year and makes families more resilient to a volatile coffee market. A more resilient farmer will continue producing coffee and supply us with the quality and quantity we need to grow our business,” said Peyser.
While conditions have improved since 2007, food security and other aspects of social and economic development remain a serious issue in Mexico and Central America. Not only do many farmers still struggle to get through the “thin months,” but they must also contend with the growing pressure that climate change has put on the natural resources needed by farmers to grow food and coffee. For this reason, in 2012, Keurig Green Mountain committed more than $5.6 million in grants to food security programs, benefitting over 200,000 individuals throughout their supply chain in partnership with NGOs like CIAT, Catholic Relief Services, Heifer International and Save the Children.
Keurig Green Mountain has a goal to engage one million people in its supply chain to significantly improve livelihoods by 2020. To read the full Thins Months Revisited report, please visit www.AfterTheHarvest.org.
About the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
Working with partners across the developing world, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) – a member of the CGIAR Consortium – develops technologies, methods, and new knowledge that better enable farmers, especially smallholders, to enhance eco-efficiency in agriculture – that is, make production competitive and profitable as well as sustainable and resilient through economically and ecologically sound use of natural resources and purchased inputs. With headquarters near Cali, Colombia, CIAT conducts research for development in tropical regions of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. www.ciat.cgiar.org. CIAT is lead center for the program on CGIAR Research Program Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which helps smallholders adapt to and mitigate the effects of rising temperatures and increasingly unpredictable rains. www.ccafs.cgiar.org
About the Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG)
The Agroecology and Rural Livelihoods Group (ARLG) is a research group within the Department of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Vermont. ARLG research and teaching efforts focus on developing and applying transdisciplinary approaches that analyze interactions among agriculture, livelihoods, and environmental conservation in tropical and temperate rural landscapes. Most of this work also utilizes a Participatory Action Research approach (PAR), in an effort to directly support conservation and rural development. For more information visit: http://www.uvm.edu/~agroecol/
About Keurig Green Mountain, Inc.
As a leader in specialty coffee, coffee makers, teas and other beverages, Keurig Green Mountain (Keurig) (NASDAQ: GMCR), is recognized for its award-winning beverages, innovative Keurig® brewing technology, and socially responsible business practices. The Company has inspired consumer passion for its products by revolutionizing beverage preparation at home and in the workplace. Keurig supports local and global communities by investing in sustainably-grown coffee and by its active involvement in a variety of social and environmental projects. By helping consumers drink for themselves, we believe we can brew a better world. For more information visit: www.KeurigGreenMountain.com. To purchase Keurig® products visit: www.Keurig.com or www.Keurig.ca.
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