A chieving the balance of food security and sustainability is an agricultural challenge which needs to be addressed. Growing food in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way – while also producing enough of it – is among the most important challenges facing the world today. Producers are amongst the most vulnerable members of the coffee supply chain. Many are already contending against inconsistent and insufficient incomes, which is why in times of crisis, food security can become a pressing issue. For most farmers, their incomes are largely dependent on a single harvest and an inflexible crop cycle which is susceptible to catastrophic weather events. If left unchecked, insufficient food security could force coffee farmers to abandon production entirely.
What causes food insecurity in coffee regions?
A combination of causes contributes to persistent food insecurity in rural communities around the world. Many of these causes influence smallholder farmers, who grow almost three-quarters of the world’s coffee on small farms of less than 10 hectares.
- These producers often rent part of the land they manage, which leaves them with less decision making power when it comes to what, when and how to grow some of their crops.
- The price variability of coffee and reliance on a single export crop add additional layers of vulnerability for producers.
- National policies, subsidies, and incentive programs to encourage the conversion of land for mono-crop coffee cultivation (replacing traditional strategies that combined subsistence food and coffee cultivation) resulted in catastrophic impacts on farmers in Mexico and Central America during the coffee crisis.
How can coffee importers, roasters & consumers help?
Support farmers to grow food crops
Increasing production of food crops for consumption can ensur food security in coffee growing areas. This sounds straightforward - but its benefits extend beyond this. This food can be consumed by their families and excess can be sold for additional income or bartered for food variety. Subsistence agriculture can decrease reliance on coffee as a primary source of income and improve the wellbeing of families and communities.
Ensure a better price for green coffee
The simplest steps to achieving food security is by paying farmers a fair price that covers production costs, and supporting programs that help diversify incomes. While more income is crucial, it is not enough on its own to ensure food security. coffee farmers face considerable risk with the instability of green bean coffee prices, and adding to this the risk of fluctuations in food prices increases the food vulnerability of these communities.
Train farmers to improve farming practices
Educate coffee farmers to grasp the urgency of growing their own food. It’s vital to help them understand that land can be used for to intercrop and grow food, and other cash crops alongside coffee. Train farmers on smart agricultural practices that can be applied when extreme weather patterns and market price volatility hamper coffee production.
What is the way forward to sustainable food security?
Small-scale coffee producers are up against human, natural and economic barriers that challenge the viability of continuing in coffee production. The problem of seasonal food insecurity for this population is global in scale, deserving of a response that reflects its reach. Food insecurity exists in the homes of coffee producers.
Why fair price alone does not guarantee food security?
As partners, we seek to ensure the food security of our farmers. Here’s how we are addressing the problem one farmer at a time.
- Supporting livelihood diversification so our coffee growers have multiple sources of income and food (not just coffee). To better survive market price fluctuations, diversifying income can provide coffee farmers with a certain level of stability. At Grand Parade, we do this by providing financing and training in bee-hive farming and growing new crops (maize, bananas) to supplement and diversify income.
- Provide farmers with adequate support and technical assistance to maximize their food production potential and attain balanced nutrition. We support our farmers to adapt mitigating strategies such as irrigation and planting shade trees to conserve water and soil moisture.