In the UK alone, we drink 70 million cups of coffee a day. Yet growers of the essential raw material – the coffee bean – still rank among the poorest people in the world. In fact, half of the world’s highly indebted poor countries (known as HIPCs) are coffee producers.
This paradox was brought to light at the Oxford Farming Conference this week, by Konrad Brits, Founder and Managing Director of Falcon Coffees. After decades of work sourcing coffee in Africa, Brits had seen first hand how farmers at the bottom of the supply chain suffered. Having grown up in apartheid South Africa, he decided that it was time to take a stand against this social injustice.
“I realised that if I didn’t take responsibility I could be guilty twice – guilty of apathy and indifference in the face of other people’s suffering,” he told the audience. “We need to see the people behind the commodity”.
He then set up Falcon Coffees, with the vision to create a new blueprint for agricultural trading. “We are all the same, we have same hopes and aspirations”, Brits told the audience, “but what we don’t share is equal access to resources”.
Through partnerships, Falcon creates access to credit for poor coffee farmers all over the world, as well as providing agronomy training, supporting gender initiatives and raising funds for education.
A partnership with sister company Rwanda Trading Company has yielded impressive results. Though an agribusiness training program in both Rwanda and Tanzania, farmers have increased their yield by 155%, and household income has rocketed by 61%. The quality of produce is also increasing, as farmers are taught the skills required to grow a better crop. This in turn boosts their income, as they are able to sell their quality crop for a higher price. Furthermore, RTC has been able to recover the costs of the training program within three years, proving the sustainability of the scheme.
The Oxford Farming Conference continues today, featuring speeches and debates from leading politicians, food businesses and farmers. Follow #OFC17 on Twitter for the latest news.