Are sustainable coffee benefits trickling down to the bottom of the sustainability chain, the farmer? According to the Technical Coordinator of a Guatemalan cooperative, the answer is no. He raises what some consider to be controversial issues and makes some suggestions for bringing the same sustainability benefits we coffee drinkers enjoy to the farmers.
Sustainable farming practices are being followed by many coffee farmers in Guatemala, as well as elsewhere. Manuel Mendoza is only describing some of the problems for farmers in Guatemala, however. He speaks on a recently-released video of these issues, the basic one being that other farmers who produce the food that the sustainable growers eat are not following the same sustainable practices.
Mendoza is obviously sold on the idea of sustainability as he questions why other farmers don’t seem to have the same respect for the soil and environment as he does. He complains that it must not be taught in the college agriculture programs, as the concept is not filtering down to the growers of foods other than coffee. He asks that if coffee consumers are concerned about sustainable farming practices, should they not be concerned about these practices being applied across the whole agricultural spectrum?
Our extra pennies that we spend on sustainably grown coffee help to fund community-wide programs that benefit not only the coffee growers, but all residents of the communities involved. These other residents and farmers also need to be taught and encouraged in the use of sustainable processes. After all, it isn’t just the environment and soils of the coffee farm that need to be nurtured, but the agricultural lands in entirety. That way, not only will we be able to enjoy the benefits of sustainably grown coffee, but Mendoza and his fellow coffee farmers will also be able to enjoy sustainably grown staples such as corn and beans.