Coffee is Everywhere
Coffee is one of the first things that many of us think about when we wake up in the morning. It’s part of our daily routines that we hate to go without. Coffee is grown in over eighty countries around the world, and its top consumers are Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, United States, Japan, and Britain. There are more and more coffee organizations around today that help consumers make purchasing decisions in the form of certifications, like the USDA Organic Certification. This article will review the Rainforest Alliance Certification for coffee growers.
The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal features a frog. The reason for this is because frogs are indicator species. The presence or lack of an indicator species provides a clear signal about the health of the environment. They are more sensitive to changes in the environment than a non-indicator species.
Why do farms want to become certified?
Rainforest Alliance certification helps farms find better markets to sell their coffee, adapt to changes in the environment and demand, and increase their productivity through better farming and management practices. The seal is the brand. The brand holds a strong reputation with its consumers because they want to support coffee that meets their values.
Why Consumers Value the Rainforest Alliance Certification
The Rainforest Alliance Certification takes a holistic approach that supports social, economic, and environment of the farm.
To achieve the certification, several social criteria have to be met. Some of these criteria are as follows: no forced labor, no mistreatment of workers, payment of a minimum wage, freedom of association and collective bargaining, 48 regular working hours and one rest day per week, regulation on overtime, access to drinking water, and necessary conditions for housing.
These may seem to be basic needs that anyone would expect to receive, but most coffee farms are located in poor, rural areas in developing countries, where workers can be taken advantage of. Many laborers do not even know what rights they have. The certification helps enforce that the laborers are treated and paid fairly.
If farms qualify for the Rainforest Alliance Certificate, then they can expect to receive better coffer prices. Consumers are willing to pay higher rates knowing that the coffee was produced in a manner that supports social and economic improvements of the local community while supporting conservation efforts.
There is no requirement to be organic, but instead, the standard is based on the integrated pest management (IPM) model that allows for strictly controlled use of agrochemicals. Farms are encouraged to use biological alternatives whenever possible, to reduce their overall use of pesticides. It also prohibits the use of most dangerous chemicals.
Biodiversity Conservation is also a crucial part of the certification. A few criteria are no destruction of high conservation value areas, no conversion of forest and other natural ecosystems in the past five years, no adverse effects on protected areas, and no hunting.
Biodiversity is an essential part to coffee growers around the world. Most varieties of coffee plants prefer a canopy to grow under. This is often referred to as shade-grown coffee. Shade-grown coffee promotes healthy ecosystems by protecting forests that provide homes to birds, insects, monkeys, and many more.
“The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal is a guarantee that coffee is grown on farms where forests are protected, rivers, soils, and wildlife conserved; workers are treated with respect, paid decent wages, properly equipped and given access to education and medical care.”
Who’s Left Out
There are many poor farmers who only own a few hectares of coffee. They could meet the requirements for certifications like the Rainforest Alliance. However, many often lack reading and writing skills that would be required to record the paperwork to acquire and maintain a certification. Or they could not afford the certification, to begin with. Many farms are 100% organic because they are too poor to pay for pesticides or agrochemicals, but they don’t receive better prices for their coffee.
If you are looking for coffee that supports local communities and local environments, then look for the green frog seal on the coffee bag. If you are passionate about coffee, than consider taking a tour of a coffee farm on your next vacation.
James Lantz is an outdoor enthusiast who is passionate about coffee, hiking, fishing, and biking. He runs the website, Trip to the Wild, which provides tips and tricks for any outdoor fan, no matter if you are a beginner or experienced person.