Our Top Four: The 2011 SCAA Sustainability Award Finalists

By SCAA’s Sustainability Council

The Sustainability Council created the Sustainability Award in 2003 to promote, encourage and honor the efforts of those serving as role models in fields of sustainability. Each year, the council read about the depth and breadth of the sustainable work being done in all areas across the industry and chooses a winner from a number of incredible projects and companies from around the world.

The Sustainability Council is extremely proud to showcase four extraordinary finalists for the 2011 SCAA Sustainability Award. This year, we were flooded with applications by impassioned and hard-working coffee companies from the entire supply chain. It was a difficult choice, but after much deliberation, we are delighted to bring you this year’s top four finalists.

Be sure to check out SCAA’s Facebook page and tell us which finalist you think should win. And we hope you can join us at SCAA’s 23rd Annual Exposition in Houston, Texas, where the winner will be announced during the Opening Ceremonies!

Café Femenino

Since the inception of Organic Products Trading Company (OPTCO)—a company that imports high quality certified organic and fair trade coffee—owners Gay and Garth Smith have traveled to coffee growing communities all over the world to work with growers who are committed to organic and organic fair trade coffee production. In 2004, OPTCO, along with several other organizations, founded Café Femenino Coffee Project, a social program for women coffee growers in rural communities around the world. Today, OPTCO is the exclusive importer of the Café Femenino Coffee with Gay Smith serving as a lead spokesperson and advocate for the project.

With determination and desire for a better future, more than 460 women coffee producers in Peru united to take a step toward achieving empowerment. This step came in the form of growing, harvesting and producing their own coffee, called Café Femenino. In 2004, OPTCO, along with CECANOR Cooperative, PROASSA, CICAP and Cordaid, founded the Café Femenino Coffee Project, designed to support the women in their efforts to achieve their goals.

Today, the Café Femenino Coffee Project is a social program for women coffee producers in rural communities around the world. More than 1,500 women in Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru are active in the project, which helps them achieve empowerment, build social and support networks, and earn incomes through the production and sale of Café Femenino Coffee. This coffee is distributed by more than 80 roasters, all of whom pay a premium above the fair trade price, and is sold at retail locations nationwide. The success of the project initiated the creation of The Café Femenino Foundation, which provides grants to select programs and projects that enhance the lives of women and their families in coffee growing communities around the world.

Climate Friendly Coffee Farming | A Partnership between Efico, Rainforest Alliance and AnacafÈ

The Climate Friendly farming project is a pilot initiative developed by Anacafé, the Rainforest Alliance, Efico, and the Efico Foundation to research, test and promote criteria and practices that help farmers mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts. The pilot project aims to develop a robust set of climate criteria that indicate best climate practices in coffee production and processing activities. Implementing these practices helps farmers adapt to the effects of a changing climate, reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase levels of carbon stored on their farms. Practices to achieve those objectives are encouraged within the project.

Key project activities include researching the climate impact of coffee farming practices; measuring carbon storage on selected farms on different levels (soil carbon, carbon in shade trees and coffee plants); testing assumptions regarding best management practices to reduce GHG emissions; holding stakeholder workshops and consultation events; selecting criteria which describe best climate friendly practices; carrying out pilot audits of the climate module; marketing climate-friendly coffee; and creating resilience strategies among farmers, technicians and auditors.

The criteria and best practices developed will be bundled as a “Climate Module”—a voluntary, add-on module to the existing Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standard, the rigorous standard against which farms are currently audited to obtain Rainforest Alliance certification. The project builds upon existing criteria and indicators for climate-friendly farming practices and develops new ones, coordinated with and approved by the SAN Standard. The climate module will facilitate farmers’ implementation of practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enrich on-farm carbon storage, mitigate climate change impacts on communities and ecosystems, and help farmers adapt to climate change.

The pilot project was initiated in Guatemala in July 2009, with five cooperatives on the Fraijanes Plateau and one medium-sized farm in San Marcos, Guatemala. A total group of 376 coffee farmers, families and communities will benefit from this project.

The pilot initiative is being disseminated to use as a model for addressing new crops (cocoa and tea) and regions with grants of the Rockefeller Foundation. Participating farms can be audited against the Climate Module to demonstrate their compliance with climate criteria and their adoption of climate-friendly practices. Climate Friendly coffee can be commercialized in a differentiated market. In the near future, “climate friendly” coffee and other products can be available in the market.

National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia | Bird Census

Birds are a diverse and ecologically important taxonomic group in the mountains of the Colombian Andes, a region of some of the highest biodiversity on the planet. The enormous variety of birds in coffee-producing areas is considered a natural heritage that ought to be preserved. In the last century, however, natural habitat has given way to agriculture and cattle production in most areas. Birds are beautiful and charismatic and generate interest among human communities. Developing and adopting biodiversity-friendly production systems that ensure the conservation of birds—while at the same time providing sustainable economic well-being to the farming communities—is a major challenge for all.

Since 2004, the National Coffee Research Center (Cenicafé) has been conducting a program of periodic censuses to study birds and promote their conservation in the Colombian coffee-growing region. The program, known as the “Participatory Bird Census In Coffee-Producing Areas of Colombia,” brings together coffee producers, researchers and extension personnel from Colombia’s Coffee Federation.

Coffee farmers, their families, extension personnel, and researchers collaborate to conduct bird inventories in and around coffee farms. The project includes an educational program on birds which provides information about basic ecology, conservation and research techniques to both children and adults. A variety of activities, such as games and workshops, and a series of publications, including bulletins and posters, are used to foster an interest in birds and in the protection of the natural environment around coffee farms. Because of its participatory nature, the community takes part in the selection of census sites, objectives, and emphasis of the study in each region. Results are shared and discussed with the participants, who examine their environmental significance and potential use in conservation, educational, or even marketing campaigns.

In six years, 29 communities have participated in the program and conducted bird inventories in their regions. With their help, the frontier of ornithological knowledge in the Colombian Andes has been extended significantly: 448 species of birds have been recorded so far (25 percent of the total for Colombia), and more than 100,000 copies of educational bulletins and thousands of bird posters have been given away. The Participatory Bird Census Program is helping rural communities learn to look at their farming environment through the eyes of the birds. By doing so, it aims to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, the preservation of environmental services, and sustainability in a farming environment.

Grounds for Health

Grounds for Health is a nonprofit organization based in Waterbury, Vermont. Founded in 1996, Grounds for Health’s mission is to provide women’s healthcare services in coffee growing communities. The connection to coffee is through their founder, Daniel C. Cox, a Vermont coffee businessman who learned that cervical cancer was the leading cause of death in women in the communities where he bought coffee. Cox also discovered that the reason for this high rate was limited access to healthcare, especially preventive care and screenings. By partnering with coffee companies, medical professionals and local coffee co-operatives, Grounds for Health works to create locally managed, sustainable and effective cervical cancer prevention and treatment programs in coffee-producing regions. They currently have programs in Mexico, Nicaragua and Tanzania.

To date, Grounds for Health has provided direct services to more than 19,000 women, trained more than 270 doctors and nurses, utilized 150 volunteers, and equipped 15 rural clinics to provide early treatment. Since 2007, Grounds for Health has piloted a new approach to cervical cancer prevention called “Single Visit Screen and Treat,” which is based on research initiated by the World Health Organization and funded by the Gates Foundation. This model is designed to address the challenges found in low-resource settings.

The Grounds for Health model is an excellent example of best practice public/private partnership. It establishes programs in coffee growing communities only upon invitation from the coffee cooperatives themselves. The co-op leadership must demonstrate commitment to the program through community support and investment. Through local partnership and use of the Single Visit Approach, the low-resource-appropriate programs focus on innovative training and education, so more women can get back to their children, their communities, and their lives.

We look forward to announcing the award winner in April at SCAA’s Exposition, and we encourage all companies and individuals leading the way in sustainability to apply to our award. Applications open in October of every year, so stay tuned for the call for applications in the fall of 2011.

Congratulations once again to our finalists and a big thank you to all those who applied and continue to work hard to make our world a more sustainable and enjoyable place to live


Café Femenino, www.cafefemenino.com
Climate Friendly Coffee Farming, trade@eficocentram.com
Natural Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, Jorge.Botero@cafedecolombia.com
Grounds for Health, www.groundsforhealth.org