The 3rd WCPF addressed the importance of a truly sustainable coffee value chain

The third edition of the World Coffee Producers Forum (WCPF) was held virtually on 12 July (it was originally scheduled to take place in Rwanda in July 2021). The focus of this year’s event, which included stakeholders from the coffee sector (experts from around the world, representatives from many of the coffee-producing countries, coffee associations and organizations), essentially summarized what the WCPF is all about: trying to ensure that the coffee value chain is sustainable from beginning to end, centered on producers and improving their livelihoods and quality of living. At the core of the event was the intersection between coffee farmers’ prosperity and National Coffee Sustainability Plans (once developed).  

The World Coffee Producers Forum is a non-profit organisation that was formed to analyse and address the challenges faced by the coffee value chain, especially concerning those who grow and produce coffee, that is, the farmers. An estimated 70% to 80% of the world’s coffee is produced by smallholders, but it comes as no surprise that the sector (as does the tea industry) still faces major environmental, economic and social issues. The WCPF believes all stakeholders must mutually aligned and working towards a common goal. 

The WCPF encouraged dialogue between the key experts and producing countries’ representatives on how to proactively address the challenges faced by the coffee value chain worldwide while improving the livelihoods of smallholder coffee growers.  

“Beyond the increase of wages and incomes, the real challenge is to achieve the growers’ and their communities’ prosperity and create sustainable living conditions for future generations of farmers,” said Juan Esteban Orduz, president of the Colombian Coffee Federation, Inc and chairman of the WCPF. 

One of the questions raised at the forum was how roles can be balanced between public interventions and private strategies to really benefit the rural communities and foster the long-term sustainability of the sector worldwide. 

Vanúsia Nogueira, who assumed the role of executive director of the London-based International Coffee Organization (ICO), in May, shared that “to meet the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] and address the challenges of the coffee sector, we need an effective public-private partnerships framework. The ICO Coffee Public-Private Task Force is a unique opportunity to enhance dialogue and build consensus between all actors, with a view to achieving coordinated action for a sustainable and prosperous coffee sector at local and global levels.” 

The WCPF also focused on the importance of aligning producing regions with the SDGs through strategic plans for supporting producers and promoting sustainable coffee production. According to the WCPF, the SDGs stimulus is crucial to raising funds and investments in reliable ways and to developing strategic plans which will serve as a shared framework for public and private coordinated actions. 

Prof Jeffrey D Sachs, who is a member of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, explained how each coffee-producing country should develop an SDG-framed ‘National Coffee Sustainability Plan’, which accounts for the different needs, challenges and opportunities within that country’s coffee sector.  

He said there are six SDG-based complementary investments around the coffee growing itself, that are essential: school and education; investment in healthcare; electrification based on energy decarbonization; sustainable use of land and biodiversity; sustainable infrastructures; and digital access and services. 

WCPF participants noted that the challenge is how to address the deep sustainability concerns acknowledged by coffee sector stakeholders to meet the changes and opportunities related to the coffee demand that will occur over the coming decades. The WCPF concluded that social and environmental sustainability must be intrinsically linked to overcome the multiple issues that could increasingly disrupt the coffee value chain at both the local and global levels. 

The next WCPF Forum is scheduled to take place in person 13 – 14 February 2023 in Kigali, Rwanda.

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