International Coffee Day 2023

Hands holding ripe coffee cherries at Santuario Sul in Brazil
Table of Contents

You already know – workplace health and safety is important! It is important in every occupation, in every location. Everyone has a right to a safe and healthy working environment, including in the coffee supply chain… including workers, farmers, producers and pickers at a coffee farm. (Surprise, surprise – we’re here to advocate for the workers at origin again.)

This is what the Vision Zero Fund is about. It is part of an International Labor Organisation (ILO) flagship programme that is building a culture of safe, healthy work. And on this International Coffee Day, we want you to read about it too. #CoffeePeople

The ILO released a collective action kit this July that very clearly outlines the goals we should be aiming to achieve, and the actions various individuals, parties, and government boards can take towards achieving these goals. You can read the collective action kit in full here.

It should be a no-brainer – we should be supporting a healthy working environment. But it is not always easy to know, from your part of the world, how people in other parts of the world are working and if their conditions are reasonable or even considered. It can come down to trust – do you trust that the people you are working with are treating their workers with respect, and it also comes down to access! Do they even have access to equipment or knowledge or facilities that can allow for a safer working environment? Even if you do not work directly with all people along the coffee supply chain, there are still things you can do to promote the key messages in this kit and further the reach of understanding on this global topic. Read below for suggestions.

Here are the key messages of the #CoffeePeople campaign outlined in this kit:

  • Every coffee worker, in every job, has the right to a safe and healthy working environment.
  • Coffee workers suffer work-related injuries and diseases every year. These are largely preventable.
  • Safe and healthy working conditions are fundamental to decent work.
  • 70% of labour in coffee production is provided by women. Recognizing the division of labour from a gender perspective is the first step in promoting safer, healthier workplaces.
  • To find solutions, we must take collective action and engage in social dialogue. Together, we can build unprecedented alliances and deliver enduring solutions for coffee workers’ safety and health.

We love these goals! The ILO through the Vision Zero Fund has already helped 3.5 million workers in the coffee supply chain through projects in countries such as Laos, Vietnam, Honduras, Colombia and Mexico. Promoting a healthy, safe, and sustainable working environment can only benefit… everyone!

So in the spirit of promotion, and keeping to our values of community and sustainability, here is how we have been contributing towards the goals of promoting healthy and safe working environments, since the beginning of our time as a coffee community business.

  • We built a fresh water well in Guji Ethiopia for workers and local communities to access fresh and safe drinking water – always.
  • In partnership with Primrose Exporters, we helped fund the building of a bridge in Guji Ethiopia to cross a river safely and shorten the walking time for workers at coffee farms and for children attending school.
  • In partnership with Kape Diem, 1LM, and the Australian Government’s BPP, we formed Orijem Timor to achieve community related goals in the coffee growing sectors of Timor-Leste, including supporting repeat workers, promoting women through managerial roles, and providing processing facilities to reduce the need for unnecessary manual transportation of cherries.
  • Project Origin shared farm, El Arbol, in Nicaragua run by producer Claudia Lovo offers services to the workers and their families including medical care and education, as well as a stable food source from their gardens.
  • Helped fund the building of the kitchen in a children’s school in the Marcala region of Honduras organised by specialty coffee producer, and community man, Don Fabio Caballero so that his co-workers could have a safe place for their family to be instead of the hilly slopes of a coffee farm.
  • Raised money to fund the building of infrastructure for the community around Thalanar Estate, India, including a sanitation block for a healthier environment and a child care centre to protect the children during working days and hours.

In addition to these Project Origin contributions, our producing and exporting partners also work hard themselves to encourage returning workers for a growing community, education towards best practices, both for quality and sustainability in environment and health, and support their local communities in a variety of ways. We support them all! Some of these partners include:

  • Maguta Estate, Kenya, run by producer David Maguta
  • El Arbol, Nicaragua, run by producer Claudia Lovo and her Bridazul business partner Tim Willems
  • Producer Don Fabio Caballero, Honduras
  • Primrose Exporters, throughout Ethiopia
  • Bwenda Mountain Washing Station, Rwanda, run by producer Bernard Uwitije
  • NOVA Coffee, Rwanda, run by producers Agnes Mukamushinja and Felix Hitayezu, who are funding an early childcare centre, offering women only lots, and providing education to young workers for a sustainable lifestyle
  • Bambito Estate, Panama, providing breakfasts to their local schools 

We also encourage chemical free agriculture where possible or appropriate. We cannot say this should be for every farm, because the need to remain on top of plant diseases and pests is important too, and we should never punish a producer for using chemicals to keep their farm producing. But if we can support them through natural chemical options, or share research and knowledge on staying ahead of the curve-ball, then this is a great goal to push towards reduced chemical usage, which does impact the health of workers.

So what can you do to help this movement and goal of increasing the safety and health conditions of workers at origin?

  • Talk about it! Use the hashtag #CoffeePeople when posting a selfie with your coffee cup that is dedicated to the coffee workers.
  • Share this blog, our post, the work of the ILO and the action kit.
  • Do further reading here and here and here.
  • Ask your coffee exporters and importers and roasters about updates, progress or news.

Here’s to celebrating this International Coffee Day with a purpose of improving the international coffee community – because that’s what we are: a community. 

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