An initiative involving John Lewis has been launched to support coffee farmers in post-conflict zones in Colombia.
The project – set up and jointly funded by Olam Coffee, John Lewis Partnership, Bewley’s Tea & Coffee, and coffee cooperative ASOPEP – involves setting up a new laboratory and training centre to raise coffee quality.
The laboratory and educational facilities will give growers access to training on organic and sustainable farming techniques, good agricultural practices, new varieties of coffee and quality testing.
Around 2,000 people in coffee-growing communities in Huila and Tolima are expected to benefit from the training over the next three years, with the initiative focused particularly on women and young people.
Olam coffee specialists will deliver advanced post-harvest processing workshops and to introduce farmers to the latest techniques for producing higher grades of coffee.
Catalina González, head of sustainability and differentiated coffee for Olam in Colombia, said: “In the current climate of unpredictable weather and prices, it’s important to encourage and upskill growers to produce higher quality beans that qualify for specialty coffee markets, where prices are higher and more stable.”
She said Olam worked with 5,000 farmers in Colombia through existing sustainability programmes and the new initiative would be monitored through Olam’s sustainable sourcing platform AtSource.
David Jameson, coffee programme manager of Bewley’s UK, said: “By supporting the community in Planadas in this way, we can help coffee farmers improve their yield and quality, and by doing so, help them to safeguard their income in the future.”
Separately, an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches has embroiled high street coffee shop giant Starbucks and Nespresso owner Nestle in controversy after it revealed that children under 13 were working on supplier coffee plantations in Guatemala.
The programme filmed children working 40-hour weeks in poor conditions for low wages on farms which supply the companies.
According to the programme some of the children worked around eight hours a day, six days a week and could have been as young as eight.
Typically they would be paid less than £5 a day, depending on the weight of beans they picked.
George Clooney, Nespresso’s brand ambassador, said he was “saddened” by the allegations and said the company “still had work to do”.
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.