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Advancing the Farmworkers Discussion at the SCA Expo

Workers in Aguadas, Colombia, discuss the services provided by the collaborative project and describe what it means to work in farms with good conditions. Photo by Angela Pelaez of RGC Coffee.

The Specialty Coffee Expo takes place this week in Seattle, bringing together coffee sustainability leaders from all over the world to advance discussions that are crucial for the future of coffee itself.

One of the topics that has grown in relevancy for the coffee industry in recent years is the situation faced by the millions of active farmworkers, the people who who work the fields all year long under a range of conditions to enable coffee’s journey to market.

This year, the Expo presents new opportunities to join and advance the farmworkers discussion in coffee through workshops, lectures, meetings and action networks. Industry leaders all over the world are already acting on this topic because its relevancy to coffee supply and to their companies (to comply with changing regulations, to protect themselves from and improve brand risk, to address labor shortages, and to engage on an important social issues… the list goes on).

Here are some of the farmworker-focused events happening at this year’s SCA Expo:

Hands-On Training

Workshop: Farm Workers: Risk Mitigation and Sustainability in Your Supply Chains

When: Saturday April 21, 3-5 p.m.
Location: Room 613/614
Registration is required

For the first time at Expo, there will be a workshop focused on learning about farmworkers in coffee. This workshop is based on the work that the Sustainability Center of SCA has done over the years to educate the industry. This is a chance to immerse yourself in this topic, explore its relevancy to your company and identify initiatives that you can implement or support in your supply chain. Join me and colleagues from Rainforest Alliance, Solidaridad and Counter Culture Coffee as we facilitate this workshop.

Learning Opportunities

Session: Farmworkers Pilot in Colombia — A collaborative approach to improve farmworkers well-being

When: Friday April 20, 9-10:15 a.m.
Location: Room TCC Tahoma 2

You will be able to learn about a project in Aguadas, Colombia, where nine organizations working in coffee (RGC Coffee, Aguadas Cooperative, SCA, FTUSA, UTZ, Solidaridad, Fundacion Luicjota, CRECE, and Expocafé) have been collaborating to learn more about specific initiatives that improve conditions for workers and reduce labor shortages. Angela Pelaez from RGC Coffee says the project is “working with producers and workers to define and implement services that will encourage a dwindling labor force to participate in coffee growing”. This panel builds on the information presented last year at Expo and will provide an update on the learnings.

Session: SCA Sustainability Center — Open Interest Meeting
When: Friday 3-4 p.m.
Location: Room 3 AB

The Sustainability Center of SCA will host an open interest meeting to discuss the work of the center during the past year. During this meeting, participants will be able to learn from the discussions about farmworkers issues that happen at the first SCA sustainability conference: AVANCE, held in Guatemala last October. Kim Elena Ionescu, Chief Sustainability Officer at SCA, says, “We will share our findings on recent research on farm profitability and foster discussion among attendees about the next steps we must take to build a sustainable industry.”

A Chance to Join Sector-Wide Collaboration

Session: Improved Labor Practices and Supply Action Network
When: Saturday, April 21, 1:30-3 p.m.
Location: Room 303
Click here for information on attending

The Sustainable Coffee Challenge has brought together companies and NGOs to learn, discuss and collaborate to make coffee the first sustainable agricultural product. One of the action networks that have been more active in the last year is the Labor Action Network. During Expo, the action network will present on some of the collective progress up to date. Participants of this meeting will discuss how we can continue to advance this issue together as a global industry.