A government loan program meant to help spur conservation and assist farmers is delaying the country’s prime harvest season as funds remain unavailable.
In Kenya, October is prime coffee-harvesting time. But unless thousands of farmers get the funds necessary to employ coffee pickers, tons of coffee beans may go unpicked this year, leaving many in the country empty handed.
Funding provided by the African nation’s Coffee Development Fund, meant to assist farmers in the hiring of coffee pickers for the harvest and to support the rehabilitation and conservation of coffee plants, has yet to materialize for some smallholder farms and estate growers. The fund was developed in 2005 and many of the nation’s 700,000 smallholder coffee growers began receiving the funds last year as part of the initiative.
A delicate problem
The harvest is a delicate time for coffee growers as coffee cherries ripen and are ready to be stripped of the beans that grow inside of them. If coffee pickers aren’t able to harvest these cherries in time, they become overripe and the beans lose their quality ranking. It goes without saying that farmers depend on a good ranking to fetch the best prices for their crops. But without loans necessary to hire workers, the harvesting can’t be done in time. It’s an unfortunate catch-22.
Kenya’s The Daily Nation newspaper reported Tuesday that this year’s crop is expected to be big one, topping last year’s coffee harvest by nearly 18,000 metric tons thanks to recent heavy rainfall. Leaving that crop to die on the vine will mean a waste of resources and the loss of reputations for farmers in Kenya’s fierce coffee market.
Coffee farmers were expected to submit applications for the loans by May or June of this year with the promise that funds would be provided to them before the start of the harvest. The funds managers have said that the revolving fund has been left depleted as many farmers failed to repay last year’s loans. It’s a situation we’ve all become too familiar with in this country.
A powerhouse in the coffee industry
With six million Kenyans employed by the coffee industry in some way, the country is the world’s 17th largest producer of the crop. Most Kenyan coffee is grown on high plateaus. The beans grown there are known for their full body and intense flavors, thought to be the result of the acidic soil the coffee plants thrive on.
Once the beans are harvested, farmers travel to the Nairobi Coffee Exchange where coffee is traded once each week. In the United States, Kenyan coffee is often made available by retail brands like Starbucks and Green Mountain Roasters.
An estimated 50,000 coffee farmers could be affected by the lack of funds. According to George Ooko, managing trustee for the Coffee Development Fund, some growers can expect to see funds by the end of the week.
Who says coffee can’t have a positive impact on the environment? In addition to the positive effects provided by growing coffee with shade farming techniques, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is also taking steps to help improve energy efficiency in the state of Vermont.
Granting Money to Vermont Residents
As part of its efforts to help the environment, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is giving $30,000 to the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network (VECAN). With the help of the grant money, the Action Network intends to help several Vermont towns reduce the amount of energy used by their residents.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters will do more than just provide VECAN with grant money, however, as the company will also be assisting with education initiatives. For example, the Local Energy Action Partnership (LEAP) will be hosting a workshop about home weatherization on the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters campus tomorrow from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.
“Every little bit helps and this is going to be a real shot in the arm for VECAN,” Elizabeth Courtney, executive director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, said on Times Argus Online. “Partnering with one of Vermont’s premier businesses is a very exciting proposition. We’re excited to make that connection. Not only are they a grant entity, but they are going to be working shoulder to shoulder with us on this.”
A Business with a Social Conscious
Green Mountain Coffee doesn’t focus solely on environmental issues with its grant program, however, as the company strives to help the community in as many ways possible. In fact, the company takes 5% of its pre-tax profits each year and invests it back into local communities as well as coffee growing communities in an effort to help residents in a number of different ways.
“Green Mountain Coffee’s community outreach is focused on alleviation of poverty and hunger, reduction of solid waste and responsible energy use,” Jasna Brown, Green Mountain Coffee’s domestic outreach coordinator, said in a written statement. “Our partnership with VECAN speaks directly to our social and environmental missions, providing individuals with resources to learn to live more lightly on the land and save money while doing it.”
A Growing Company
There is nothing better than watching a caring company grow and expand, and that is just want is happening with Green Mountain Coffee. Despite the tough economic climate, the company has made new acquisitions during the past two months. These include purchasing a facility in Tennessee as well as part of a company based in Seattle. In the past few years, the company has grow significantly, which means it is also able to give more money back to the community in the form of local grants. As a result, the company has been named to CRO magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens list two years in a row. So, let’s all raise a cup of Joe to a company that cares – and let’s hope they see continued success so their grant efforts can also continue to grow.
With all the fuss about eating and drinking healthy that has arisen in the last decade, more and more products are now available in “organic” version. At first, I though the “organic vogue” was only going to be a bubble and that it would burst sooner or later. Well, with the public becoming so well informed about the correlations between chemicals used in agriculture and various diseases such as cancer, I have to admit that the “organic” market is here to stay and expand.