Coffee has always been a boom or bust crop, a volatile agricultural commodity. While prices during boom years are significantly higher than during bust years, they are deceptive. Often when prices are high, the cost of production is equally high, and farmers still do not earn what they need to survive the year without great sacrifice.
Fairtrade and other premiums have helped establish better prices and provide benefits for small-scale farmers. They also provide roasters and vendors with the opportunity to pay a fair price for their coffee. Unfortunately, this alone is not enough to adequately address the problem of poverty for small-scale coffee farmers. There are, though, many efforts being made within the coffee industry to confront this problem. Yet chronic seasonal hunger, that is, hunger during the months when there is no income from coffee, remains a serious problem.
If coffee farmers are to liberate themselves from the cycle of poverty, they need not only to improve their yields, coffee quality and production systems, but also to find ways to put food on the table year-round. This is where Coffee Kids comes in.
Coffee Kids was founded in 1988 as a nonprofit development organization. Our work is not related to the production or marketing of coffee, but rather to creating sustainable alternatives to coffee that will allow farmers to continue to harvest coffee, while subsequently increasing their economic opportunities.
Dedicated to helping coffee-farming families improve their lives and livelihoods, Coffee Kids supports programs in food security, economic diversification, health care, education and capacity building.
When coffee-farming families have additional sources of income, they are better able to support themselves and their families. They can then continue to farm coffee knowing that a dip in international prices will not have a catastrophic effect on family income.
Annually, Coffee Kids works with more than 9,000 coffee farmers and their families in more than 130 communities throughout Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Peru. The overall impact of our 19 projects reaches more than 80,000 people.
One example is organic gardening in Tabaconas, Peru. Food production in this region is scarce, and purchasing food is prohibitive in cost. Thirty families are now learning about native plants, the nutritional properties of crops and how to sell their surplus vegetables. Not only are they now able to meet their nutritional needs, but they are also earning extra income, which benefits all community members who can now purchase affordable, locally grown and organic foods.
Who Benefits From This Project?
Small-scale coffee farmers grow most of the world’s coffee on plots of land that are less than five acres. It is these farmers and their families who directly benefit from the support of Coffee Kids projects.
Doña Graciela García Reyes, from Oaxaca, is a long-time participant in Coffee Kids-funded projects. She has been fighting for women’s rights in the community since 2000, when she and three other women founded Naxii’, a women’s cooperative that produces locally grown chili, peach and apple preserves.
Doña Graciela is currently president of the organization Naxii’, runs an Internet café, and makes sure that the canning operation, which is one of the organization’s biggest income generators, runs smoothly. Doña Graciela also owns a small restaurant and is currently participating in CAMPO’s food-security project where she grows 10 different types of vegetables in a greenhouse.
“I’ve been growing vegetables since 2007 with the help of CAMPO,” says Doña Graciela. “We grow lettuce, radishes, tomatoes and many varieties of chilies. In my house we eat very spicy food, and thanks to this project, I don’t buy chilies or tomatoes in the market anymore. I harvested tomatoes all year round last year and had about 90 extra kilograms that I sold to family and friends. With the money I earned, I bought fertilizer for next year’s crop.
“Thanks to this project I’ve learned to grow my own vegetables, make extra money and get other women to grow the vegetables that they would otherwise just buy in the market.”
How Can I Help?
Coffee Kids relies on cash donations to implement all of our projects. We also accept in-kind donations in the form of publicity, as well as equipment and other resources to help us meet our administrative and marketing needs.