Sustainability has been a hot topic in the past five years; however, the enduring environmental, economic and social health of the coffee farmers are integral for the coffee industry to survive. A decreased amount of biodiversity in farm lands and farmers being paid pennies are some of the key issues that the coffee industry is experiencing.
What is Sustainability?
In simple terms sustainability means that we’re meeting the needs of the people today without jeopardising the needs of people in the future. In terms of coffee we’re taking into consideration the triple bottom line which includes: people, planet & profit.
How Does Sustainability associate with the Coffee Industry?
Sustainability hasn’t just come onto to the scene in terms of importance, it’s been considered since the very first international coffee agreement which took place in the 1960’s. There was a conversation on how to reduce the amount of excess in the coffee industry to make sure of financial sustainability. Many coffee farms are based in third world countries which have a high poverty rate and a non-existent social infrastructure. The exposed coffee farmers and their families are living in a highly unpredictable coffee market which isn’t economically sustainable for them. Economic sustainability is linked to social sustainability of the poorest communities in the coffee market.
Coffee prices have always been unstable and this gives coffee farmer’s families uncertainty regarding access to: education, food and healthcare. Since coffee farms are in largely isolated locations, this effects the costs of purchasing important tools and transporting goods along the coffee chain. When the coffee price falls this cost remain constant making the tools and transportation costs unaffordable, leading to farms having to close.
There are other social inequalities that has had detrimental effects on the industry. Gender inequalities are a huge problem. Women coffee farmers produce less crops than male farmers because they have a significant lack of equipment. There is research that suggests that if we reduced the gender gap, we could create up to 30 billion more cups of coffee a year. The other key issue that needs addressing is child labour as they’re regularly used as cherry pickers in plantations in third-world countries.
Importance of Environmental Sustainability
This is one of the most important issues facing the coffee industry. Sustainability looks after the environment for future generations. Coffee farms require large plots of land which leads to huge scale deforestation. Not only does the deforestation of thousands of trees have an impact on the environment, the subsequent exports of goods effects climate change. Climate Change leads to erratic weather systems which can sometimes destroy crops by flooding, draughts and unpredictable rainfall. When this happens, they have no crops to sell on to make a profit, to sustain their farms.
Coffee Farming has a detrimental effect on the biodiversity of the land. However, some methods are more harmful than others. Growing coffee under shade trees helps preserve the local environment. Although, the majority of farms are monocultural farms, which means that only one crop is grown there. This a negative impact on the quality of top soil and growth of crops.
How Does Fair Trade Help Sustainability of the Coffee Industry?
Fair Trade requires companies to pay sustainable prices for the product they’re receiving. The organisation tries to eliminate the injustices facing the poor farmers that aren’t getting sustainable wages that they deserve. Fair Trade has been effective in its responsibility of monitoring the agreement between the large corporations and the small coffee farms. They have enhanced the standards of living of many vulnerable workers.
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