Gathered in Brazil World’s Small Coffee Farmers Say They Want to Be Heard

A delegation of almost 200 small scale family coffee farmers gathered in Salvador, in the Brazilian northeastern state of Bahia, for the second World Coffee Conference (WCC). Their message: the coffee crisis is not over for the 25 million small scale family coffee farmers worldwide.

The farmers informed that they want to have a voice and be active members of the international coffee debate, becoming an integral part of the solutions that will shape their futures as well as those of their families and communities.


The WCC, sponsored by the International Coffee Organization (ICO), was held in Salvador from September 23 to 25. The delegation represents coffee farmers and cooperatives throughout the world that do not have the financial or human resources to express their concerns first-hand at the conference.


Lorenzo Castillo, head of the Junta Nacional del Café in Peru, said: “The US$ 550 registration fee and the manner in which the World Coffee Conference was organized limit the access and participation of small coffee producers, responsible for 75% of the world’s coffee production.”


Castillo added, “Meetings like this must create an environment that guarantees opportunities for small coffee producer participation.”


Carta de Salvador, drafted by the delegation, was delivered to Nestor Osorio, president of the ICO, at the WCC on Saturday, September 24. The declaration highlights that the coffee crisis continues worldwide, it outlines the problems faced by small scale family coffee farmers and proposes solutions. 


In another effort to give voice to the farmers left out of the Conference, the Brazilian National Confederation of Agriculture Workers, CONTAG, held a Family Agriculture Coffee Fair in the weekend. The Fair took place outside the Pestana Bahia Hotel where the conference was held. Coffee samples from producers worldwide including India and Ethiopia as well as musical and cultural presentations were featured.


A series of workshops for the delegation coordinated by Oxfam International, CONTAG, IUF (International Union of Food Workers), the Dutch Coffee Coalition, and GLACC (Global Alliance on Coffee and Commodities) were also conducted over two days prior to the WCC.


The workshops addressed issues such as the development of the Common Code for the Coffee Community (4Cs), sustainability, labor rights, corporate buying practices and trends in the coffee sector.


Constantino Casasbuenas of Oxfam International stated, “We felt it was very important to bring the members of this delegation together and offer an opportunity for information sharing and debate on key issues that affect their daily lives.”


Casasbuenas continued, “Their input is crucial. Any sustainable solution to the coffee crisis needs to involve these coffee farmers.”


Oxfam International is a confederation of 12 organizations working together with over 3,000 partners in more than 100 countries to find lasting solutions to poverty, suffering and injustice. Their members defend the idea that economic and social justice are crucial to sustainable development.


They affirm that they strive to be a global campaigning force promoting the awareness and motivation that comes with global citizenship while seeking to shift public opinion in order to give fairness the same priority as economic growth.


According to them, the coffee crisis is an economic and humanitarian calamity triggered by plunging coffee prices and a glut of product on the coffee market. They say the crisis has ravaged coffee-growing communities in developing countries since 1999.


After hitting a 30-year low in 2001, the price of coffee has continued to fluctuate over the last several months and small scale producers are still unable to earn a decent income.


As a result, millions of families lack basic necessities such as health care, education, and, in some cases, adequate food. Many coffee farmers have been forced to abandon their land and migrate elsewhere in search of employment.


Oxfam International – www.oxfamamerica.org

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