On the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, there is a coffee cooperative whose name translates as “there is light in Gayo”. The 1813 farmers in the cooperative didn’t name their organisation by accident; they are determined to build a strong and transparent body with the power to improve the lives of its members and their community.
Growing coffee isn’t the easiest way to make a living. The world market price is volatile, so farmers often don’t know what their crops will earn from one year to another. The crops are susceptible to disease and pests, and highly vulnerable to changes in climate and rainfall - so even if prices are high, the yield may be low. Despite these challenges, the farmers of the KSU Ara Cahayani Gayo cooperative are just some of the 25 million people trying to make a living from the highlight of our mornings - a cup of invigorating coffee.
But the farmers of KSU Ara Cahayani Gayo have an advantage - the cooperative has been Fairtrade certified since 2017, and the coffee grown there is sold to Nespresso for inclusion in their new Master Origin capsules. The smallholder farmers in the cooperative each have an average of 1.5 hectares, on which they grow different varieties of Arabica coffee, including a hybrid resistant to leaf rust, a fungus that damages the plants. The beans are processed using the “wet hulled” method to produce a higher toned, lighter bodied coffee, with caramel, spice and fruit flavours.
Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand CEO Molly Harriss Olson said the discerning coffee drinkers of the two countries were a perfect market for the high quality beans coming out of Indonesia.
“Australians and New Zealanders love their coffee, and they love an underdog. When a brand as big as Nespresso adds Fairtrade certified products to their range it makes it easier for everyone to support farmers while still buying the brands they know and trust.”
Being able to sell their product on Fairtrade terms means farmers are doing more than just making a living, they’re able to make fundamental improvements to their community, and ensure the future viability of their local industry. The Fairtrade Premium - an amount paid out on top of the Fairtrade Minimum Price for the commodity that covers the cost of sustainable production - has enabled the cooperative to fund demonstration plots in three villages to help farmers learn new techniques; buy new tools for farmers, including saws, hoes and pruning scissors; purchase a truck to transport the coffee; conduct erosion mapping and work towards organic certification; and get plans underway for a proposed sports and arts centre for use by the children at two local primary schools. A long-term project has also just started with the aim of creating five champion farmers in each village - including two women farmers - who learn new farming techniques and better ways to cultivate their plants and then teach other farmers how to do the same. (Out of the 1813 farmers in the cooperative, 477 are women.)
“Nespresso and Fairtrade share a common goal - we both want to support farmers working towards better futures for themselves, their families, and their communities. Together, our goal is to ensure coffee farming is a sustainable industry that appeals to the next generation. This partnership strengthens our ability to make that goal a reality, to the benefit of farmers - and coffee lovers - the world over,” Ms Harriss Olson said.
“Fairtrade is proud of the work we have done with Nespresso since becoming partners in 2013, including the creation of an innovative Pension Program for Colombian coffee farmers and a new Fairtrade certified cooperative in Indonesia. The launch of two Fairtrade labelled Master Origin coffee capsules represents our mutual commitment to supporting small-scale coffee farmers to build better futures.”
The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program has been in place since 2003 to improve farming practices and coffee quality, and is well aligned with Fairtrade’s own emphasis on sustainability. Now, the two organisations are working with the farmers of the KSU Ara Cahayani Gayo to keep shining a light on a better future.
Globally Fairtrade works with 445 coffee producer organisations such as KSU Ara Cahayani Gayo, representing 810,000 farmers in 30 countries to make sure they are paid fairly for their produce and work. In 2016, more than 185,000 metric tonnes of coffee were sold on Fairtrade terms, and Australians and New Zealanders alone bought the equivalent of 393 million cups.
Fairtrade works with farmers and workers to make sure the coffee industry has a bright future. The Fairtrade Premium can be used to fund training and education programs, as well as climate change adaptation and resilience strategies or crop diversification. Buying coffee carrying the Fairtrade Mark, such as Nespresso Master Origin Indonesia, means you’re investing in the future for coffee farmers, and coffee.