Seeds is an acronym that stands for Sustaining Environmental and Educational Development at Source. Our Seeds program was created to structure and define Counter Culture's monetary contributions to projects that are not coffee-quality-specific but still benefit our coffee-producing partners and their communities. To date, we have contributed a total of $24,963 to projects in 6 countries. We'd like to catch you up on the projects we have funded over the last couple of years through our Seeds program with an eye toward more regular updates of ongoing projects.
Our Fourth Project: The Social Impact of Microlots
San Ignacio, Peru
San Ignacio, Peru
This project was slightly different, as it involved yours truly, a contracted consultant at the time, helping to formalize a study and lead and analyze the research on the social impact of microlots. Together, Cenfrocafe cooperative and Counter Culture Coffee were able to gain greater understanding of the producers' and cooperative's perceptions of microlot production, and their hopes for the future. (Cenfrocafe brings us our Valle del Santuario and La Frontera coffees.)
The hypothesis prior to the study was that microlot coffee production may have both a positive and negative impact on communities. The positive impact on cooperative members could be felt by a sense of ownership of their product and a return on investment, while the negative impact could potentially be feelings of envy or competition that quality coffee production promotes among non-microlot members.
Data was collected through 13 semi-structured, open-ended, qualitative interviews with microlot and non-microlot members, two with promotores who work in these communities, and one facilitated community meeting with about 65 cooperative members. A few common themes emerged from the interviews, especially with regard to improvements that they believe would help more farmers produce microlots more consistently from year to year. Many growers requested greater definition of which coffee varieties to plant for better cup quality, and others noted a need for better coffee-drying infrastructure – namely, raised beds under plastic tarps. In general, producers did not have a sense of envy for their neighbors who received the microlot premium. Rather, the non-microlot recipients were excited for the microlot recipients and simply desired increased knowledge as to how they too could receive the premium.
Counter Culture and Cenfrocafe also agreed that more recognition of top producers – outside of the price premium – would serve an intangible but significant motivational purpose. We will work together on some form of reward or recognition for 2012.
While Counter Culture has had similar conversations with producers before, we now have a whole new lens through which to examine them and develop strategies together. We were especially grateful to Teodomiro Melendres and Sergio Ramirez, the 2 promotores from CENFROCAFE who helped to carry out and analyze the responses from their cooperative members. Overall, producers were excited for the opportunity to share their opinions and shed light on their experiences. The cooperative is in the planning stages of how they will use the report to inform long-term action to encourage and manage microlot coffees among their members.
If you're interested in more details about the project, you can read the full study here. And, Michael Sheridan of the renowned Borderlands project wrote a review of Counter Culture's microlot study here.
'Til next week,