This article is sponsored by Keurig Dr Pepper.
Did you raise a cup of joe Friday in honor of International Coffee Day? Regardless whether you realized it was a holiday, there’s a good chance you enjoyed a mug or two to start your day. The global coffee market is flourishing and is expected to continue to grow. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, global consumption of coffee is expected to exceed production this year for the first time since 2017. However, robust demand for coffee — coupled with economic challenges, climate change and now COVID-19 — creates complex challenges threatening the health and vitality of the coffee supply chain, especially for smallholder farmers who represent one of the most vulnerable links in that chain.
As a large purchaser of coffee, Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) is committed to meeting these challenges head on to help safeguard the future of this high-demand commodity. KDP is focused on supporting the people behind its products and ensuring their success, particularly for smallholder coffee farmers and the co-ops that connect these farmers to markets. But KDP cannot do it alone; its success relies heavily on innovative partnerships.
One such partnership — going strong after over 20 years — is with Root Capital, a nonprofit that works with small and growing agricultural enterprises to transform rural communities. Root Capital lends money to underbanked businesses and provides training in financial management, climate resilience, digitization and other proficiencies to strengthen their businesses and to better serve their farmer members. KDP works collaboratively with Root Capital through several initiatives to deliver critical advisory services and catalytic financing to farmer-allied businesses in vulnerable communities around the globe.
For example, in 2017 KDP worked with Root Capital and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to create the Partnership for Sustainable Coffee (PSC), a three-year project that reached 183 farmer businesses in Colombia, Honduras, Indonesia, Peru, Rwanda and Uganda, supporting sustainable livelihoods for 330,000 smallholder coffee farmers and their families. In 2020, KDP, Root Capital, USAID and new partner Ezrah Charitable Trust built upon the success of PSC to develop the Partnership for Sustainable Supply Chains (PSSC) to aid agricultural enterprises impacted by COVID-19.
The pandemic exacerbated ongoing challenges already facing smallholder farmers, such as climate change and food insecurity, triggering a major setback among supplier communities. PSSC is providing financial and advisory support to agricultural businesses representing 150,000 farmers in 12 countries across Africa, Latin America and Indonesia, helping them not only withstand the current pandemic, but also build resiliency for years to come.
KDP is funding the project’s COVID-19 Resilience Grants, which are helping co-ops address short-term recovery needs, such as purchasing personal protective equipment, renovating spaces for social distancing and developing health and safety resources to keep workers safe. Long-term recovery efforts include subsidizing income during months of uncertainty, creating social emergency funds and supporting farming families facing food insecurity. To date, Root Capital has distributed grants to 20 KDP suppliers across Peru, Columbia, Honduras and Indonesia.
As a result of deep ties forged through decades of partnership, the company can act quickly in a moment of crisis, as with COVID-19. But crises are often symptoms of long-standing, interconnected and complex problems — such as climate change and water scarcity — that also require attention, resources and the power of partnerships.
In 2012, KDP became a founding member of World Coffee Research, a research organization helping farmers adapt to the growing stressors of climate change and accelerating new approaches to grow, protect and enhance supplies of quality coffee. KDP recently committed $1 million over the next four years to make coffee farming more profitable and resilient to climate change. The goal is to meet growing demand by developing more coffee varieties that can be produced in high volumes, while ensuring farmer profitability. Climate-smart coffee is a foremost priority; as temperatures continue to rise and extreme weather grows more frequent, coffee becomes increasingly susceptible to diseases, pests and drought, and productivity and quality both fall. With that decline, farmer livelihoods are at risk.
KDP has also partnered with Catholic Relief Services and the Inter-American Development Bank’s SAFE Platform to create Blue Harvest, a collaborative program that supports sustainable farming practices in coffee-growing communities in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Through this program, KDP helps restore water sources on and around coffee farms and increases access to clean water for coffee farmers and local communities. To date, Blue Harvest has saved 35 million gallons of water through infrastructure upgrades and water stewardship practices, improving water supply for over 145,000 people and has helped over 4,500 farmers adopt regenerative practices to build soil health, reduce synthetic inputs and restore nature.
It is through the power of innovative partnerships and true collaboration that KDP has been able to help drive positive impact for smallholder coffee farmers, while ensuring the quality and integrity of its products for years to come. The work continues, as KDP remains committed to using its buying power for good to empower smallholder farmers throughout the supply chain.