SAFE and the future of sustainable coffee

By Alejandro Escobar A., Lead Specialist, Multilateral Investment Fund of the IDB Group

It has been two and a half years now since the MIF first sat at the table with Starbucks, Keurig Green Mountain and Farmers Brothers to discuss the future of coffee in Latin America. Back in November of 2014, when the MIF convened a meeting with these key global players in the coffee industry, it wanted to get feedback and strategic advice on how to move forward with more critical programs that would support small coffee farmers and their cooperatives. The conversation ended up being a much more robust discussion on how to leverage each other’s strengths and resources to create a platform that would implement region wide coffee initiatives, to achieve high levels of scale and impact.

It seems the MIF acted at the right time, in the midst of global commitments by some of these companies and others, all looking for ways to make good on their promises of better and more sustainable coffee. Months later, other companies and organizations would join in, such as Solidaridad, ECOM, SCAN, COSA, and S&D, among others. Jointly under the leadership of the MIF, they formed SAFE, the Sustainable Agriculture, Food and the Environment Platform.

Today SAFE is not only a knowledge and exchange platform, it has become a leader in the sustainable coffee field, backed up by six current projects which have started since the Platform formally launched in 2015 and six more to come in the next two years.  A recent article by the Daily Coffee News outlines the SAFE initiatives, among which we mention the following:

Blue Harvest – a watershed and water management initiative in coffee landscapes in Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador spearheaded by CRS and funded by the MIF and Keurig Green Mountain

Farmer Link – a lending program with the Cooperandes Cooperative from Colombia, and funding from the Grameen Foundation and Starbucks Trading, to provide long term lending to women farmers in the Choco and Antioquia regions.

Price Risk Management – a training program to the largest and strongest coffee cooperatives of the region to enhance their capacity to manage risk and futures contracts in coffee trade and finance

Gender Equity in Coffee Value Chains - a strategic research and development initiative lead by the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), which aims to leverage support from industry partners to work at the community level in Northwestern Nicaragua (Estelí, Nueva Segovia, and Madriz), with approximately 4,000 direct beneficiaries

The SAFE Platform will be holding its Annual Meeting at the SCAA global coffee conference in Seattle this week (April 21st). Two of the SAFE projects will be featured in presentations at the conference where some 14,000 coffee industry professionals, farmers, and cooperative leaders from around the world, are expected to attend.