Developing a Development Approach for Coffee

by Andrew Sargent, Michael Opitz, and Jan von Enden

Nearly a decade after the coffee crisis of 2000/2001 and the subsequent introduction of several industry efforts to address its causes, consequences, and related issues, poverty and environmental degradation continue to be widespread among the 20 million smallholders for whom coffee farming is an important livelihood strategy. The challenges are immense—for example, due in part to poverty and environmental degradation, it is uncertain whether global production will keep pace with rising consumption—yet resources for addressing these challenges are relatively scarce.

For this reason, the entire coffee sector has an interest in ensuring that projects, programs, policies, and sustainability initiatives are designed to maximize impact and address the core development problems facing the sector—and that scarce resources are used in the most effective and efficient way possible.

The coffee industry recognizes that these problems exist and thus currently supports several sustainability initiatives, each employing a different approach. But how is one to determine which initiative—if any—to support? How can individual actors and the industry as a whole ensure that resources are used effectively and that the initiatives being supported are truly addressing the problems we all observe?

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