Leticia Monzon is one of more than 25 million people in the world who depend on the production of coffee for their livelihoods. Her Rainforest Alliance Certified farm in the Guatemalan highlands is one small piece of the US$ 100 billion coffee industry.
Coffee, one world’s most traded commodities, is the economic backbone of countries throughout Latin America, Asia and Africa. Yet smallholder farmers in these coffee-growing regions face many challenges, including poverty, commodity price fluctuations and increasingly erratic rainfall patterns caused by climate change. Since 1995, the Rainforest Alliance has strengthened the position of sustainable coffee farmers by training them in methods that boost yields and safeguard the health of the land for future generations. All of this is part of our global strategy to ensure the long-term well-being of farm communities, as well as the forests on which we all depend.
"Now that we protect the environment, it benefits each and every one of us personally."Leticia Monzon
Supporting Farmers and Communities
The Rainforest Alliance works with sustainable coffee farmers to improve their livelihoods and the health and well-being of their communities. Coffee farms or groups of smallholder farmers that earn the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal are audited annually against a rigorous standard with detailed environmental, social and economic criteria. These criteria are designed to protect biodiversity, deliver financial benefits to farmers, and foster a culture of respect for workers and local communities. Rainforest Alliance certification also promotes decent living and working conditions for workers, gender equity and access to education for children in farm communities.
Protecting Land and Waterways
Decades ago, coffee farms were virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding forest. Traditional coffee-growing methods depended on the shade of the forest canopy, which supported local wildlife, migratory birds and better bean quality. In the 1970s the introduction of a new hybrid coffee plant requiring agrochemicals and full-sun exposure led many farmers to cut down their forests and abandon their traditional ways. This high-tech approach to farming has devastated lands throughout the tropics.
On Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, coffee grows in harmony with nature: soils are healthy, waterways are protected, trash is reduced or recycled, wildlife thrives and migratory bird habitat flourishes. In addition, hundreds of farms we work with have adopted climate-smart agriculture techniques that sequester carbon. Most importantly, farm communities learn the importance of protecting their natural resources, and they acquire the tools and resources to do so.
While the global coffee industry is valued at $100 billion annually, the vast majority of coffee farmers see meager earnings because they’re often paid so poorly for their beans. With few available options, many farmers end up either abandoning their land or destroying forests and wildlife habitat by clearing land for monoculture. Rainforest Alliance certification reverses this destructive cycle: Independent studies demonstrate that farmers who use our sustainable methods increase yields and achieve cost savings through more efficient farm management. Achieving certification also helps farmers reach new markets, negotiate better prices, improve their access to credit and earn a premium on their beans that they can use to build a more economically secure future.