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So far, we’ve focused on the sustainability impacts of growing, purchasing, and roasting coffee. This week I’d like to take a step back and talk about an issue that’s affecting the sustainability of the coffee industry as a whole: climate change. As Counter Culture works to measure and reduce our carbon footprint, we also recognize the need to account for the climate change effects that are already in motion and affecting coffee production. In this post, I’ll share two exciting climate change projects we’re working on.

High-quality coffee grows in pretty specific conditions. It needs heat during the day, cool evenings, and predictable rainfall to trigger the coffee trees to flower and produce fruit that ripens at the ideal rate. Coffee beans are the seeds of this fruit, and their flavor is highly dependent upon the right combination of these attributes. Often, these ideal conditions occur high on the slopes of mountains, generally above 1,400 meters.

Even very small changes in temperature and precipitation patterns can have a dramatic effect on the viability of coffee trees. For example, a few degree increase in temperature can raise the ideal altitude at which coffee can be grown on a particular mountain. With a temperature increase, a farmer who previously grew coffee at 1,400 meters might have to move further up the mountain—if a higher altitude exists—where that farmer may not own land or already have coffee trees planted.

In 2013, Counter Culture partnered with a group of students from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University to form a partnership around studying climate change impacts and adaptations for coffee farmers. In the summer of 2014, the students from this group went to three co-ops we work with: CODECH in Guatemala, ASORGANICA in Colombia, and CENFROCAFE in Peru. Using various methods to gather input from farmers, co-op leaders, technical experts, and government leaders, the students researched both the effects of climate change on coffee producers and their resiliency strategies. From the data they gathered, the students made specific recommendations of adaptation strategies to each co-op. For year two of the study, a new group of students will hone in on some of the best recommendations and spend two months on the ground with the co-ops doing feasibility studies.

We’ve really appreciated the alternative perspective and expertise of the students, and we’re looking forward to learning how we can best support these co-ops as they adapt to changing climatic conditions.

As I mentioned in the post about our internal sustainability operations, we’ve measured and offset our company’s greenhouse gas footprint since 2010, but I’m especially proud of the purchase we recently made for our 2012 and 2013 emissions. Not only are these offsets independently verified, they also directly benefit coffee farmers—two things we hadn’t been able to achieve in tandem in past years.

Through Cooperativa AMBIO, we purchased enough trees to offset 1,341 tonnes of CO2. The credit to grow these trees will be allocated to coffee farmers in the buffer zone of the Selva El Ocote Biosphere reserve, in Chiapas, Mexico. Not only will this help maintain a biodiversity hotspot, it also provides these farmers with source of income in addition to coffee. According to our contact at Cooperativa AMBIO, our purchase will affect an area roughly the size of 14 soccer fields and directly impact 6 coffee-growing families.

Beyond purchasing high-quality offsets, the next step is to reduce the amount of energy we use and the need to purchase offsets. While we’re on that journey, though, we’re committed to supporting great projects.
La Voz Women's Compost ProjectCooperatives that are concerned both with the environment and with the quality of their coffee are aware of the need for organic compost. Organic compost can be expensive to buy, however, it is relatively easy to make your own if you have some initial capital, especially when you have a willing and able labor force within your cooperative.

This spring, La Voz que Clama en el Desierto, a cooperative out of San Juan de la Laguna in Guatemala that we have worked with for the last four years, applied for funding through our Seeds initiative and was one of the two projects that was selected and approved. Counter Culture and La Voz split the costs of the project down the middle with Counter Culture’s funds covering the majority of the material inputs and La Voz’s segment covering a lot of the labor needs.

Not only did the project focus on compost creation from start to finish (delivery of materials, mixing materials, distributing ready made compost, storing compost for later use) it also had a unique focus on female cooperative members. In total, 60 women received the completed compost to spread on their coffee parcels. Over 35 hectares were fertilized. While there isn’t a direct correlation between solid agricultural practices and cup quality, it bears noting that this year was the first year we sold La Voz’s coffee as a single origin and we have high hopes that this trend will continue in the coming years.

Each year we open the window for Seeds applications once in the spring and once in the fall, ready to support initiatives at the community level that work toward sustainable agriculture and food security efforts at origin. The next cycle for Seeds applicants will begin mid-September and we anticipate more noteworthy applicants and initiatives ahead and producers and producer groups are encouraged to apply here.

In partnership for inspiring work at origin,

Hannah Popish
Roberto Salazar of Finca Pashapa in Honduras heard about our cookstove project and wanted to.
You may recall what a big hit our carbon footprint reduction project in Honduras was at the end of 2012. Not only were we excited about the offsets, but the excitement sparked a good deal of interest within producer communities, as well. For us, this is the ideal way for good work to get done: groups recognize a timely, valuable, well-organized project and non-governmental organization (NGO) when they see one and want to be a part of it all without us saying a word!
 
For weeks, after Roberto Salazar – a member of the cooperative COLCAFELOL, which has provided us with delicious Honduran coffees in years past – heard about the clean cookstove project that we did with the COMSA cooperative in Marcala, he was emailing us asking how he could get in on the fun. We put Salazar's cooperative in touch with the contact at COMSA and with Trees, Water, and People – the NGO responsible for training on the construction of the stoves – and let the magic happen from there.
 
We recently received news from Roberto Salazar that they successfully made a partnership with Trees, Water, and People to build clean cookstoves. June 18 marked their first day of construction on 85 stoves with members of their cooperative.
 
Thanks to all for generating the enthusiasm, making connections, and getting it done!
 
-Hannah
 
Growers in Ethiopia at our compost workshop in March 2013.At the end of March, coffee buyers Kim Elena Ionescu and Tim Hill traveled together – which they almost never get to do; with so much Coffee Department travel, they usually travel separately – to Ethiopia for a compost workshop funded by our $1-per-pound allocation from our 2012 Holiday Blend and attended by 30 farmers from Haru, Idido, and Biloya.

"I was really excited about this trip!" acknowledged Kim Elena. "I was also really nervous, however, because I had committed Counter Culture to hosting a workshop in a place I had never been, in a language I didn't speak, on a subject outside my area of expertise."

Read Kim Elena's full trip report on Flickr offering annotated photos offer an overview of the two-day workshop, as well as a few glimpses into the activities at these cooperatives this time of year.

Javier Recinos at Finca Nueva Armenia in Huehuetenango, Guatemala.
As you may have read, we've been streamlining our Seeds program – originally created to structure and define monetary contributions to projects that are not coffee-quality-specific but still benefit our coffee-producing partners and their communities. We narrowed the scope of projects and made the application more detailed so that recipients know what is expected, and we get a better sense of what is possible.
 
For the first time, we instated a fixed application period – January 31 through March 1 – instead of accepting submissions on a rolling basis. The results were encouraging!
 
We chose one project to fund completely and one to partially fund. The fully-funded project will be with La Voz que Clama en el Desierto, the cooperative in Guatemala that brings us Farmhouse coffee during the spring and summer months. Their project will focus on organic methods to prevent leaf rust and stop its spread.
 
The partially-funded project will be with our long-term partners the Recinos brothers of Finca Nueva Armenia, also in Guatemala. They came to us with the idea to fund a small herd of milking goats for their village. The goats will provide better and more affordable nutrition, as well as a small number of jobs for locals.
 
There will be one more funding cycle this year, June 1-July 31. Moving forward, we hope to encourage more geographic diversity. The projects funded this cycle will be completed within 8 to 12 months, and we will continue to share results and impact of the projects with you!
 
Until next time,
Hannah
 
POSTED IN: Seeds
A guide for the report at the end of your Seeds project with Counter Culture Coffee
Your report can be in any format that is most useful and easiest for your group. We only request that each of the questions below is addressed. You can either fill out this form as your evaluation or you can submit something separate by email to hpopish@counterculturecoffee.com. Thank you! Please note that these responses will potentially be used by Counter Culture marketing to share the successes of your project with our wider audience. We hope that you will also share the results of the project with your producers and partners.
 
What were the original goals of your project?
Here please include a brief summary of what you attempted to achieve initially with Seeds funds.
 
What progress have you made toward these goals with the Seeds funds you received?
What are your measurable outcomes / how do you know it was a success?
In this section you might include number of people impacted by your project, organizations that you worked with to complete the project and thus new relationships that were formed, number of workshops held, etc.
 
What would you like to have done differently? What are some lessons you learned throughout the process?
In some cases where funding is expected from other sources and does not arrive, this can impact project outcomes. Other changes/lessons learned might include: we wished we had included more perspectives of participants in planning and carrying out the project for optimal success, improving communication with partner organizations, or better accounting for time and costs involved in the project.
 
What was the response of the community or group of producers involved?
Here is where we would like to hear any results of small scale surveys you may have given participants or just a summary of informal conversations had with those affected by the project. Also, as project organizer, your own impressions are key here. Quotations from participants and/or project leaders as well as photographs are welcome!
 
What will change in the future as a result of this project?
Obviously this will look different based on the type of project you did. This is the section where you can speak more to the big picture. Think about the impact at the family, community, or cooperative level. i.e. "families now have the necessary knowledge to diversify their agricultural practices and feed their families year round." Or, "Previously toxic runoff water from washing the coffee will now be able to go through a filtration process. Neighboring waters will no longer be at risk of contamination from our practices."
 
Are there any next steps for this project? If so, what are the next steps?
Next steps might include continuing to work with the non-profit on another initiative, following up with participants one year from now to see what changes have been made, or increasing the scale of the project to reach more individuals, or, building an addition to the wet mill or to the school building, etc.
 
 
POSTED IN: Seeds
Una guía para su informe al fin de su proyecto de Seeds de Counter Culture Coffee
Su informe puede ser en cualquier formato que es más útil y fácil para su grupo. Solo pedimos que toca todas las temas mencionados debajo. Puede llenar ese formulario o puede someter algo separado por correo electrónico a hpopish@counterculturecoffee.com. ¡Gracias! Por favor notar que las respuestas potencialmente serán utilizados por el equipo de marketing de Counter Culture para compartir los éxitos de su proyecto con el público más amplio. También esperamos que ustedes compartirán los resultados del proyecto con los productores y los socios.
 
¿Cual fueron las metas originales del proyecto?
Aqui favor de incluir un resumen pequeño de lo que intentaron a alcanzar inicialmente con los fondos de Seeds.
 
¿Que progreso han hecho hacia esas metas con los fondos que recibieron de Seeds?
¿Que son sus resultados mensurables / como sabe que fue un éxito? En esa parte podría incluir el número de las personas impactados con su proyecto, las organizaciones con quien trabajaron para cumplir el proyecto y las sociedades nuevos que estaban formados, el número de talleres que tuvieron, etc.
 
¿Qué es lo que hubiera hecho de manera distinta? Que son unos de los lecciones aprendidos a través del proceso?
En unos casos donde haya la esperanza de recibir fondos de otros fuentes y no viene, eso puede impactar los resultados del proyecto. Los otros retos/lecciones aprendidos puede ser: deseábamos que incluimos más perspectivas de los participantes en la planificación y en llevar a cabo el proyecto para el éxito óptimo, mejorar la comunicación con las organizaciones socios, o mejor justificación del tiempo y los costos necesarios para el proyecto.
 
¿Qué fue la respuesta de la comunidad o grupo de los productores involucrados?
Aquí es donde nos gustaríamos escuchar cualquier resultados de las encuestas breves que tal vez ha dado a sus participantes o un resumen informal de las conversaciones que ha tenido con los que han sido impactados por el proyecto. También, como líder del proyecto, sus impresiones son claves aquí. ¡Comentarios directos de los participantes y/o líderes del proyecto tanto como los fotografías son bienvenidos!
 
¿Que va a cambiar en el futuro como un resultado de ese proyecto?
Obviamente eso va a parecer distinto basado en el tipo de proyecto que hicieron. Esa sección es donde hablar más al visión amplio. Piensa en el impacto al nivel de la familia, la comunidad, o la cooperativa, e.g. 'ahora las familias tienen el conocimiento necesario para diversificar sus prácticas agrícolas y dar comida a sus familias para el año entero.' O, 'anteriormente el agua escorrentía tóxico de lavar el café ahora puede ir por el proceso de filtración. Los aguas en la vecindad ya no están en riesgo de la contaminación de nuestros prácticos.'
 
¿Haya unos próximos pasos con ese proyecto? Si responde 'si,' ¿Que son los próximos pasos?
Los próximos pasos podrían incluir seguir trabar con el mismo ONG en una otra iniciativa, tener seguimiento con los participantes un año de ahora a ver que tipos de cambios han hecho, o aumentar la cala del proyecto para alcanzar más gente, o, construir una adición al beneficio húmedo o a la escuela, etc.
Are there any next steps for this project? If so, what are the next steps?
Next steps might include continuing to work with the non-profit on another initiative, following up with participants one year from now to see what changes have been made, or increasing the scale of the project to reach more individuals, or, building an addition to the wet mill or to the school building, etc.
 
 
POSTED IN: Seeds
 
Please contact our Sustainability Department for information.
 
 
POSTED IN: Seeds

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