Rainforest Alliance President Pushes for Coffee’s Green Revolution

November 14, 2008

"Imagine a 21st century green revolution for agriculture that, unlike its 20th century forerunner, does not depend on petrochemicals, deforestation and enormous inputs of water to fuel its growth, but instead focuses on something that has largely disappeared from the world—extension—or training farmers in good practices," said Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance, during her remarks at the Sintercafé annual coffee conference in Costa Rica today.

The Rainforest Alliance, an international, nonprofit conservation organization, works with people whose livelihoods depend on the land, helping them transform the way they grow food, harvest wood and host travelers. Through its sustainable agriculture program, farms that adhere to the standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network, a coalition of conservation organizations in Latin America for which the Rainforest Alliance serves as coordinator, can become Rainforest Alliance Certified™. Over 662,365 acres (268,050 hectares) of coffee farmland worldwide have been certified.

Rainforest Alliance Certified farms curb deforestation, protect soil and waterways and provide habitat for wildlife. Workers and their families enjoy decent housing and medical care, and children have access to schools. Farmers benefit from increased efficiency, cost-saving measures and often a marketplace premium. Coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms bears a little green frog seal of approval, which provides a guarantee to consumers that they are choosing a product that supports sustainable farming.

Forest

"In many countries coffee is grown in biodiverse, environmentally important regions by people generally living in poverty," Whelan said.

In order to experience a true green revolution, rather than making special green product lines, Whelan advocates embedding sustainability into everyday business models and products. "We at the Rainforest Alliance know that not only is this completely doable, but it is empowering for the farmers and other actors in the chain," Whelan said.

Each player in the industry has a role in changing today’s business model. Farmers can invest in sustainable practices and certification. Coffee companies can source from those farms that are third-party certified and educate consumers about the importance of those certifications. Investors can fund research and provide the financial support required to make drastic changes in coffee production, and governments can provide financial incentives and appropriate procurement policies.