Gender, climate change and youth empowerment: Our collaborative programme sees success for Peruvian coffee growers

Coffee Blog-80_tile.jpg

06 December 2018

This week, the COP 24 conference revealed the urgent action we need to take to protect our environment and find solutions to stop climate change. At M&S, we believe we can’t treat climate change in isolation to gain traction as it’s intrinsically linked with gender equality and livelihoods. Our goal at M&S is clear: We want to ensure we tackle climate change as well as protecting the livelihoods of the fantastic producers in our supply chain. That’s why, we’ve been tackling cross-cutting issues in our coffee supply chain through collaborative action.

We sell our coffee in more than 460 M&S Cafés (more than 35 million cups per year) and offer a delicious and broad range of coffees in our Foodhalls. We pride ourselves on serving coffee from two of the best coffee importers and roasters in the UK, Matthew Algie and Taylors of Harrogate, which have incredible expertise in sourcing and pride themselves on maintaining long term relationships with their growers.  

M&S coffee comes from all over the world, but we have a select list of growers who we have been working with for a very long time. The challenges for coffee growers are well documented, from declining yields as a result of climate change to low incomes due to international price fluctuations and instability and labour and gender issues. For this reason, all of our coffee is certified Fairtrade as we need to ensure that the growers receive a guaranteed minimum price, are supported to develop and grow and also earn a premium to invest in their community. But Fairtrade is not always enough on its own to solve some of the biggest issues facing coffee growers and it’s important we invest in other programmes to support our growers further.

Coffee Blog-49_field_2.jpg

For example, we recognised along with our supplier partners that Peruvian growers were facing a number of serious challenges, including the impact of Leaf Rust (Roya) on their coffee yields and a reality that very few women and youth aspire to work in the coffee industry.

“Today the climate feels very aggressive, we can see clearly that the changes have been abrupt, and it certainly affects our product. My farm is at an altitude of 1,400m and now ten years later it feels like we are at 1,200m because of the rising temperature and hotter weather. So in ten years the change in temperature feels as if it has dropped 200m in elevation. Imagine what it will feel like in ten more years? We won’t have coffee!” Emiliao Edgar Egoavil Martinez, President and Coffee Farmer at Pangoa.

Recognising these challenges, M&S, along with Matthew Algie & Taylors of Harrogate, embarked on joint collaboration with Twin Trading, focusing on gender, climate change and youth with our key cooperatives in Peru. Three years on from the start of the programme, our achievements include:

  • 1,573 farmers have been trained in sustainable and climate-smart coffee production and farmers have produced over 1,800 tonnes of compost and 31,000 litres of liquid fertiliser. This has helped the coffee farms to dramatically increase their yields by 56.8% - from an average of 10.5qq/ha to an average of 15.92qq/ha
  • The number of producers who have an income source other than coffee has almost doubled from 30% to 59%. This helps protect farmers from environmental and economic shocks affecting one specific crop.
  • Cupping scores have also improved across the board, with the San Juan del Oro cooperative recording consistent cup scores of 80 points and above. This means the coffee is not only great quality but can command higher prices
  • Over 600 people have participated in gender equality workshops and reported positive changes in their households
  • Both cooperatives have also witnessed an increase in female membership and the number of women in leadership positions grew from only 3 to 31
  • Successful youth engagement with over 450 young people trained across cooperatives via workshops such as barista training, cupping, cacao processing (Pangoa), leadership, farm management and the coffee value chain. This has led to an increased number of young people becoming members of the cooperatives from an average of 8% to 20%

 

What have we learnt three years later?

  • The value of grower centric programmes that create a positive change and deliver on their needs  
  • Issues such as climate change and gender are interlinked and shouldn’t be worked on in isolation
  • Working in collaboration has been rewarding for all of us – we’ve learnt from each other and have been able to share successes and challenges and help each other find solutions if we hit a block
  • We quickly agreed our desired outcome, which meant that we were all really focussed on the end result but it didn’t matter if our course of direction changed along the way
  • Involving the end to end supply chain has been essential and this project would not have succeeded without the expertise of Twin Trading and their team on the ground who work with the growers

Why not try our delicious coffee from San Juan Del Oro in 157 stores as our new single origin blend or buy our Peruvian blend in M&S Foodhalls?

For more information, read blogs from our partners Matthew Algie, Taylors of Harrogate and Twin Trading.

Read more from this author