• home

    Coffee Kids: Helping Families of Poor Producers


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2006

    Coffee Kids gives coffee-growing communities a hand up, not a handout.

    Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) work in the coffee sector. Some offer funds or sponsorship. Others implement programmes in the field. Some work only in the coffee sector, others don't.

    Coffee Kids, an NGO from a coffee-importing country, works to improve the quality of life for children and families in coffee-growing communities.

    In Guatemala, Bill Fishbein, a specialty coffee roaster and retailer in the United States, saw the connection between coffee farming and poverty. He created Coffee Kids in 1988 so that coffee businesses and consumers could give something back to the growers.

    Coffee Kids operates mainly in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua. It works with local NGOs and other groups, such as a women's health collective and democratically-run regional coffee cooperatives.

    Coffee Kids' annual budget is around $700,000. The funds are raised mainly from businesses (coffee shops, roasters, etc.). In-kind goods and services, individual coffee drinkers, coin-drop collections, foundation grants and other sources make up the rest.

    Helping women

    Coffee Kids' largest programme provides microcredit to women, helping to build economic stability and promote diversification. It helps establish microcredit groups that encourage saving and provide access to small, low-interest loans to start or expand small businesses.

    The women's businesses include a general store, a midwife's clinic and a pharmacy, a beauty salon, a food stand and a pig-raising business. The women also receive training in accounting and business management.

    The groups use some of the interest on loans to cover their expenses and channel the rest into a collective savings fund.

    As each community bank's savings fund grows, the group borrows less money from Coffee Kids and more from itself. Eventually, the community bank becomes an official, independent credit cooperative and the capital is recycled into starting a new group.

    Education and health

    Another programme gives scholarships to students and grants to primary schools in rural, coffee-growing communities. Coffee Kids helped a group in Mexico build a school from bricks made from compressed coffee hulls.

    In Guatemala, a women's health collective provides health-care training to women in a region where there is only one doctor for every 85,000 people.

    A success story from Mexico

    Ayahualuco is a small town in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Every year, entire families, including small children, migrate to a nearby coffee-growing region to harvest coffee. They live in temporary camps and the children miss three months of school.

    In 1997, Coffee Kids began a microcredit programme in Ayahualuco. By 1999, several families were making enough money from their small businesses that they no longer needed the extra income from picking coffee. These families were able to remain in their home community and keep their children in school.

    ITC included Coffee Kids in its publication, Coffee - an exporter's guide, among good examples of organizations active in sustainability work in the coffee sector.

    NGOs in the coffee sector These are just a few of the many NGOs active in the coffee sector. A couple of them are partly sponsored by governments and are not NGOs in the true sense of the word. However, they are often referred to as NGOs given their independence and not-for-profit profiles.

    Morten Scholer is a Senior Market Development Adviser with ITC.For more information about coffee, see http://www.thecoffeeguide.org