Editor’s Note: Today is National Coffee Day in the United States (International Coffee Day is Oct. 1.) Throughout September, Human Nature has been publishing reports on the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, a coalition working to make coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product. Read the entire series below.
But first, watch Conservation International’s brand new video on sustainable coffee:
By 2050, the world’s area suitable for coffee production is projected to be cut in half. At the same time, consumers are drinking more than 2.25 billion cups of coffee per day — and overall demand is expected to rise 50 percent to 150 percent by 2050. As we head into the most critical years for coffee farms, we must monitor coffee production practices, use science to understand the risks and opportunities farmers face as they adapt, and map out exactly how climate change is affecting certain areas.
Follow Raina Lang, Conservation International’s director of sustainable coffee markets, and Mattea Fleischner, manager on Starbucks’ global social impact team, to Guatemala. They were in the country to see how coffee trees are grown and delivered to farmers as part of the “One Tree for Every Bag” commitment, which has raised enough funds to plant more than 30 million new coffee trees. The commitment is part of a nearly 20-year partnership between CI and Starbucks.
The coffee sector has a labor problem. Pruning and weeding of coffee trees, and picking the ripe cherries, is all done by hand on the vast majority of farms, and this labor accounts for up to 60 percent of production costs. Meanwhile, climate change, disease outbreaks and price fluctuations can disrupt traditional labor patterns and lead to labor shortages and create conditions for poor labor practices. So we have to ask the question: Who is picking our coffee?
Despite cutthroat competition for your coffee money, companies are starting to work together for a shared goal: to ensure a sustained supply of coffee that is good for nature and for the 25 million people who grow the crop. How? It starts with sourcing. More roasters and retailers are committing to source their coffee only from producers who grow it sustainably. To date, companies including Starbucks, Nespresso, McDonald’s, Keurig and now Walmart — the world’s largest retailer — have made such commitments, vowing to sustainably source their coffee by a certain date.
Sophie Bertazzo is a senior editor at Conservation International.
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