Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
Catholic Relief Services' partnership with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters began in 2009 with a three-year project in Pochuta, Guatemala, that supports small-scale coffee farmers to diversify and strengthen their incomes. In 2010, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters expanded its support for similar projects in Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda, benefiting 8,000 vulnerable families (40,000 people). The support of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to CRS programs for small farmers worldwide exceeds $1.8 million.
Diversifying the Incomes of Small-scale Coffee Farmers
For much of the past decade, CRS has promoted the marketing and purchase of fair trade coffee to ensure that small-scale farmers receive a fair price for the coffee that they grow. However, we've long recognized that, even with a fair price, many of these farmers experience food shortages and hunger. The size of their farms is simply too small to bring in enough income to support the family for the entire year; any unexpected drop in global coffee prices is sharply felt.
An important component of this program helps farmers diversify their means of household income so they are no longer dependent on coffee sales alone. Complementary means of income that are locally practical and profitable include growing cash crops (cacao, bananas, beans), raising small livestock (poultry, sheep, goats), and beekeeping for honey production.
In addition, CRS encourages women from these farm families to come together in small groups of up to 20 members to make regular savings deposits to a group fund. The groups then use the cumulative savings to make loans to members for expenses such as school fees or medicine for sick family members. The solidarity that develops between these women is a strong incentive for loan repayment, strengthens the community and improves the overall standard of living.
Marta Alicia Ren Lopez volunteers her time to help women form savings groups in Guatemala. She also happens to be the president of a dynamic group made up of 16 women. In her group, each member saves about $2.50 every month, and attends regular meetings to discuss issues that affect their families and lives.
During their sixth meeting, a member of the group proposed an idea for generating greater income raising pigs. With a positive response and commitment by all, the group first built shelters for the animals and then took part in training on livestock management. When the training was completed, each woman received two healthy piglets. They then spent the next six months feeding their pigs and preparing for a profitable sale.
"As the president of the group I have learned so much," says Marta. "This is not just about what the project can give us; it's about what we can do for ourselves, too. This experience is helping me for my personal growth, for my family and my village. How could I not be happy if I know that at the end of this year, I will have more resources than I had last year?"
For more information on how Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is committed to corporate social responsibility, please visit their website.