SCAA Sustainability Award Recognizes Leadership and Innovation in the Coffee World

As part of its mission, SCAA is actively involved in issues related to sustainability, and looks to its members to take leadership roles in sustainable practices. With this in mind, 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 Sustainability Council reviews dozens of applications. The awards are presented at the SCAA’s Annual Exposition, The Event, during the SCAA Awards Reception. The winner of the award this year was Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Union with their project focusing on gender equity. The three runners-up for this award were Community Agroecology Network, The Seeds for Progress Foundation, and Conservation International.


Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Union

Gender Action Learning System (GALS): Enhancing the participation of women coffee farmers in western Uganda

In 1992, a small group of community volunteers organized self-help groups to save money in the remote mountain villages around Kyarumba in Western Uganda. By 1999, the groups had formed a cooperative dedicated to bulking and selling their coffee. In 2004, Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Union began to integrate a participatory framework of value chain development called Gender Action Learning System (GALS) to incentivize women’s contributions in the cooperative and the community.

GALS is a structured, community-led empowerment methodology aiming at constructive economic, social, and political transformation. The addition of the GALS framework, the conscious inclusion of rural women and now youth in the growth of the cooperative union built a strong foundation of financial inclusion for rural women. The cooperative union is now over 85 percent women with women holding a majority on the board.

In 2013, Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Union exported eight containers to international buyers of fair-trade and organic-certified washed specialty coffee. This grassroots movement started with money-saving groups and grew to a microfinance office that now serves over 5000 famers, primarily women.

The GALS project turned 10 years old in 2014 and is now a foundational methodology applied in all aspects of the cooperative’s operations to strategically enhance women’s involvement. GALS is now used by 5,000 farmers from the microstation level to board meetings for planning, teaching, and conflict resolution.

community argo

Community Agroecology Network

Food Security & Sovereignty in Las Segovias, Nicaragua

The paradox of the “hungry farmer” is historically prevalent in smallholder coffee growing communities. Coffee farmers suffer annual periods of hunger, called the “thin months,” when the previous year’s corn and beans have already been consumed and they are still waiting for the current year’s basic grains harvest and income from the annual coffee harvest.

The Food Security and Sovereignty in Las Segovias, Nicaragua Project is a collective initiative funded over the last five years by Keurig Green Mountain. The project is implemented through a long-term partnership model between the Community Agroecology Network (CAN), PRODECOOP, a second-level coffee cooperative, Nicaraguan and U.S.-based universities, and a local nonprofit organization.

This project aims to develop cooperative-led Community-based Food Storage and Distribution Centers (CADA), provide capacity building for agro-ecological coffee shade production and crop diversification, promote locally adapted seed varieties and establish community-based seed banks, and develop collective strategies for risk management and adaptation to climate change such as soil fertility improvement, as well as a participatory action research strategy that includes farmer experimentation and facilitates a collaborative monitoring system in order to maximize positive impact.

Since this project started, the average length of “thin months” decreased from three months to two months, and chronic malnutrition among children under 5 decreased from 43.2% in 2010 to 25% in 2013. Access to healthy food has increased through the development of 6 CADAs (Community-based Food Storage and Distribution Centers, or Centros de Acopio y Distribución de Alimentos) serving 2417 families (both cooperative members and nonmembers).

seeds for progress

The Seeds for Progress Foundation

Digital Seeds Investing in the Future of Coffee Growing Communities

Semillas Digitales (“Digital Seeds”) is a collaborative project that supports the use of technology-rich instruction and broader pedagogical innovations to improve the quality of education in coffee-producing communities in Nicaragua. The project serves as a catalyst for collective participation and innovation among teachers, teacher supervisors, students, community members and other educational stakeholders. The Seeds for Progress Foundation’s educational facilitators directly support and work alongside students and teachers as the programs establishes roots, cultivates connections, and collectively grows in ways that are in harmony with each school and the community contexts that shape it.

A key component of Semillas Digitales is its focus on action research, in which stakeholders simultaneously develop and evaluate existing and emerging sites of the programs. As a primary component of the initiative, the study documents and examines the effects of the incorporation of a technology-enriched and culturally responsive curriculum combined with intensive teacher professional development in selected schools in mostly rural coffee-producing communities of Nicaragua. Alongside educational specialists from the Seeds for Progress Foundation, the Penn GSE team facilitates and studies the program for implementation, monitoring, and replication purposes, including evaluating impact on students, teachers, supervisory staff, and community members, and the relationships between community contexts and the program.

Conservation International

Coffee and Climate Change Initiative in the Sierra Madre of Chiapas

Building on over 10 years of work with coffee producers in the Sierra Madre region of Chiapas, Conservation International (CI), in collaboration with Starbucks, the Government of Chiapas, the National Commission on Protected Areas, is working with coffee associations, cooperatives, and local partners to develop a holistic approach to addressing climate change impacts on coffee production. Phase 1 of the project was completed in September 2014. Local organizations and government agencies are now taking the lead in implementing this program of work.

The objective of this program is to integrate sustainable, profitable and biodiversity friendly production of high-quality coffee with the restoration and conservation of forest and on-farm tree cover in the El Triunfo, La Sepultura and La Frailescana protected areas covering nearly 500,000 hectares. The mountain chain is one of the Key Biodiversity Areas in southern Mexico, provides significant ecosystem services for the Mesoamerica region and is a major coffee producing region within the country.

Over the past six years, CI has been working with government agencies, local NGOs, communities and coffee farmers to understand the potential impacts of climate change on coffee production in the Sierra Madre, initiate adaptation measures that assist producers in anticipating these changes, and develop carbon market incentive programs that reward farmers for conservation activities, namely reforestation and afforestation to increase overall forest canopy cover in the region and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

By conserving forest, restoring vegetation, and promoting shade coffee practices, CI is working to increase and maintain landscape carbon stocks. With support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), CI has worked with local NGOs AMBIO, AIRES DEL CAMBIO and the university ECOSUR to implement the Plan Vivo methodology which consists of participatory development of tree and forest conservation plans for farmers and communities in the Sierra Madre. The objective is to increase tree and forest cover in the landscape to generate carbon income, mitigate climate change and help coffee communities adapt to climate change.