As a service to the children and people of coffee who make our wonderful cup possible each morning, we offer you the following information. Please forward this article to your friends, other retailers and those you know with industry relationships.

Please consider helping this long standing and pioneering organization. Contact Coffee Kids directly to see how best you can be of assistance given the nature of your particular business. We at Bellissimo feel it is time to give back and help the coffee growing community in any way we can.

Bruce Milletto, President
Bellissimo Coffee InfoGroup

Coffee Kids is playing a special role within in the industry during this difficult period. More and more continues to be written about the "coffee crisis", and its causes are complex. However the crisis is analyzed, the reality on the ground in coffee growing communities is the destruction of livelihoods, lives, traditions, families and the loss of lands and future production capacity.

What can be done? The answers are just as complex as the problem. There are the FairTrade, Shade Grown, and Bird Friendly initiatives. There's the promotion of quality coffee through technical assistance programs for growers and marketing campaigns aimed at consumers. There is the impetus for a tiered pricing structure to recognize and pay premiums for quality coffees. There are various kinds of certification programs and certification standards, plus a huge debate over quality enforcement and inspection programs. There are relationship coffees and the encouragement of vertical alliances. There are conferences, boards, plans, articles and papers. In all of this flood of information and urgency to find solutions, the ones most often left out are the small coffee growers themselves —the ones that are most impacted.

Coffee Kids has been working "on the ground" — in coffee growing communities in Latin America for almost fifteen years. The strategy of Coffee Kids is very simple — we listen. We listen to the people who are the most affected Ñ the growers. What do they say? Invariably the most common concern in coffee growing communities is the establishment of income diversification. But what income diversification means to a small coffee farmer may not be what it means to coffee experts in the U.S.

Income diversification is on the "solutions agenda" of a number of significant organizations that are dealing with the "coffee crisis". However, income diversification is often defined as improving coffee quality and production efficiency. The ways growers usually define it is finding an alternative source of
income that is not related to coffee at all.


Did You Know? Farms of less than 5 hectares (approx. 12 acres) produce about 70% of the world's coffee.


It's not that growers want to stop growing coffee. If coffee growing families can raise chickens or pigs, start a small store, mend clothes and sew, sell tortillas or sweets, run a midwife clinic, build furniture, make sure their kids finish school so they can find employment not picking coffee, then the family doesn't depend on coffee for their entire livelihood. Then when the bottom drops out of the coffee market there's a good chance they can hang on and keep growing coffee until the market improves. It means that they are not completely powerless and dependent upon the vicissitudes of the coffee market.

Coffee Kids sets up strong partner relationships with in-country not-for-profit organizations that can work with growers on a continual basis, and sponsors projects to help coffee growers realize their economic and social goals that usually revolves around decreasing dependency on growing coffee. One reason these projects work is that the ideas come from the growers themselves. Then Coffee Kids helps and encourages communities and local organizations to diversify their own funding and capacity until they are able to perpetuate and grow projects on their own.

One of Coffee Kids' projects is based upon micro-lending and micro-enterprise development as well as savings. The saving ability, even from very poor families, demonstrates financial responsibility and loan repayment ability. When enterprises are successful Ñ savings are multiplied and reinvested into the loan fund — creating what is in effect a community development bank. In Vera Cruz there are close to 2,000 people participating in a savings/lending program in 70 lending groups. The collective amount saved by participants from impoverished communities has surpassed a quarter of a million dollars.

A similar program is growing in Nicaragua and already involves over 1,500 family members where the economic situation is even more dire. In Oaxaca, Coffee Kids sponsors another loan program, plus programs to produce food for the family table through individual and community gardens. In Guatemala, Coffee Kids has been funding a health project, and in Costa Rica a scholarship program that allows kids from coffee growing families to attend school and prepare for a livelihood not dependent upon picking coffee.

Coffee Kids invites you to get involved. Coffee Kids is upgrading their business membership package so you can show your customers you care and that your business is part of the solution. We are developing a number of ways that you and your customers can get involved in helping to support Coffee Kids — so that there is a real coffee community that reaches from the grower in Latin America that picks the coffee cherries to the coffee consumers in the US that raises a flavorful, warm brew to their lips; and so that everyone can feel good about the roles they play.

Coffee Kids
(800) 334-9099
www.coffekids.org

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