Campaigning with coffee farmers in Haiti (Special Supplement 3)
Coffee seedlings are grown in this nursery at Kooperativ Kefeyie Kapwa Lomo (KKKL), a coffee co-operative in Dondon, northern Haiti.
Oxfam GB has been working with poor coffee producers in northern and eastern Haiti since 1992, raising awareness of their rights and mobilising communities to take control of their lives. This has been achieved primarily through the building of strong community-based co-operatives that have supported the coffee producers throughout the global coffee crisis.
Oxfam paid particular attention to developing functional, transparent co-operative committees in Haiti, in which co-op members could put their trust. The leaders of each co-op were given training in organisational and financial management and went on exchange visits to national co-operatives to learn how to build an effective business. Initially, coffee farmers were motivated to join the co-operatives because they could get a better price for their coffee through collective marketing, along with access to credit and technical support. Then in 1997, the co-operatives were given the opportunity to supply the Fairtrade market. This offered their members a secure market, a guaranteed minimum price for their coffee, and a 60 per cent advance at the start of every contract. To take advantage of this opportunity, the co-operatives established a 'second-level' organisation, RECOCARNO, which would act on behalf of the primary co-operatives and be the main point of contact for the Fairtrade importer.
Drying coffee beans in the sun at the Cooperative Sainte Helene Carice.
RECOCARNO is based in Haiti's capital city, Port-au-Prince, and is managed by marketing professionals. However, it is owned and directed by the members of the coffee co-operatives. In 1999 they received funding from the EU to implement a capacity-building programme which enabled them to deliver high quality coffee to the international market. Five years later, RECOCARNO is a wellknown exporter of Fairtrade coffee, with established buyers across Europe, Japan and the US.
Additional training events were run to meet the particular needs of women. All decision-making bodies attached to RECOCARNO and the primary co-operatives were obliged to include equal numbers of men and women. Men and women producers were encouraged to set up separate accounts with RECOCARNO. This meant that family members could sell their coffee individually - providing women with their own source of income and strengthening their skills and confidence.
Dried coffee beans.
Global campaigning on coffee
The Haiti coffee producers are not alone in struggling to make a living from coffee production. There is a global crisis destroying the livelihoods of 25 million coffee producers around the world. The price of coffee has fallen by almost 50% in the past three years, to a 30 year low. Most developing country coffee farmers sell their coffee beans for much less than they cost to produce. Coffee traders are going out of business and national economies are suffering. The scale of the solution needs to match the scale of the crisis. Five big coffee roasters buy almost half the coffee beans each year. They sell with high profit margins. The coffee industry has been in the process of undergoing a change from a managed market to a free market system. This has brought very cheap raw material prices for the giant coffee companies. With Vietnam entering the market, and Brazil increasing its substantial production, prices have decreased further.
Sorting coffee for export at KKKL.
Oxfam is calling for a Coffee Rescue Plan to make the market work for the poor as well as the rich. This plan needs to bring together all the key players in coffee to overcome the current crisis. This plan includes recommendations for all participants in the coffee market including roaster companies, coffee retailers, producer and consumer governments, consumers and investors.
19This case study is based on Campaigning with Coffee Farmers, written by Annabel Southgate, Oxfam. The text for the section 'Global Campaigning on Coffee' was taken from 'Mugged. Poverty in your coffee cup', Oxfam.
Taken from Field Exchange Issue 103, March 2006