Revitalizing Haiti’s Coffee Trade

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti was once the producer of half of the globe’s coffee. In the past few decades, however, coffee exports have been decreasing due to trade embargos, global market competition, deforestation and the newest threat – climate change.

While coffee exports have been declining, temperatures in Haiti are on the rise. This is caused by climate change, reports Anton Eitzinger, who works for The Center for Tropical Agriculture.

Some farmers have been solely coffee growers for generations and are now having to diversify their crops. They began planting high-demand crops such as mangoes and cocoa.

Those that remain coffee producers have had to migrate to higher land, where the mountains offer much cooler temperatures. Coffee growers are also switching to Colombian varieties, which are more able to resist the heat.

Growers are also trying new agricultural techniques like irrigation and crop rotation in hopes that the effects of climate change will slow.

However, they will not be able to tell if any of these methods are successful until the trees produce their fruit, which will not occur for another couple of years.

“Since my childhood I’ve grown coffee. I grew it with my father and my mother,” said Enock Telemaque. She owns a forest of trees and sells beans to local co-ops who then process the beans to be made into coffee.

For families like hers, coffee is their livelihood. What they make in profit goes toward putting food on the table and educating their children.

Rebo is a company that buys much of the beans produced in Haiti. It ships them all over the world to countries such as Japan, the U.S. and places in Europe. Coffee prices in these countries are higher, providing more of a profit.

Rebo also is in the process of founding special farms that will teach people how to grow coffee. There will be three, all located at higher elevations.

Various nonprofits, in Haiti and here in the U.S., are helping Haitian coffee producers gain access to bigger markets and more sustainable growing methods.

Just Haiti began in 2007. They assist communities who are looking to rejuvenate the coffee market and want to make sure that growers and their families make their fair share of the profits.

Under the “fair-trade” label, growers are paid full trade price on top of every dollar made from sales in the U.S. In 2012, 64 cents of each dollar earned from coffee purchased through Just Haiti was given to its growers.

The nonprofit helps families that are most at risk of an unstable economy who normally would not have access to such technology and markets. It hopes that families can “break the stranglehold of poverty and violence that have choked the just development of rural Haiti for hundreds of years.”

The Singing Rooster also follows Fair Trade standards, paying growers even more than what is mandatory. The non-profit maintains equal distribution of all proceeds and increases income for small growers.

Most importantly, the organization enables farmers to obtain affordable credit and secures the rights of workers when it comes to their ability to organize and gain labor rights.

Reviving Haiti’s coffee trade provides growers with economic independence, an ability to self-advocate and a cash crop that is sustainable and ecologically beneficial.

Lillian Sickler

Sources: NPR, Just Haiti, Partners of the Americas, The Singing Rooster, Haiti Innovation
Photo: National Public Radio

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