Addressing Hunger in the Coffeelands: The Next Great Sustainability Challenge in Specialty Coffee

By Michael Sheridan

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of working with smallholder coffee farmers in Central and South America as a project manager for Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Our projects have helped farmers increase coffee productivity, improve coffee quality and raise coffee incomes, but one thing they haven’t done is eradicate seasonal hunger. My experience with this issue over the past three years suggests there is no easy fix. It also suggests there is steadily growing interest within the industry in trying to address it.

I have had countless discussions around the issue of hunger in the coffeelands over the past few years with roasters, importers and other industry members. I would characterize their engagement as concerned, thoughtful, committed and seeking—seeking answers to two persistent questions: What causes hunger in the coffeelands, and what can be done about it?

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