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Coffee Study Program

Of Community, Partnership and Changing the World

In the Dominican Republic, the Coffee Study Program students meet with organisations that are working to create a fair, rewarding and sustainable coffee market.

Jia Yi and her friends believe they might provide a blueprint for positive change.
Like most Italians, Jia Yi is no stranger to espresso. A 21-year-old of Chinese heritage, she fully embraces the coffee culture of the Bel Paese.
But she was only able to fully appreciate what lies behind a cup of coffee, she says, by standing among the people of the Aguacate community, in the Dominican Republic.
As she was welcomed warmly by the locals, alongside her three fellow students of the Coffee Study Program, Jia Yi realised that it is in places such as these, that coffee is born.

“What a journey a coffee bean has to make in order to become a cup of coffee!”

It all begins here – with the hard work of the women and men who tend to the coffee plants, who harvest the beans and process them, before they flow into the global coffee market.

As a student of international development, Jia Yi knows that this market can only be fair and sustainable if the rights of farmers such as those of Aguacate and Neiba are upheld. Organisations like the Lavazza Foundation do a lot to help empower these people, who, in turn, need to organise and make their voices heard. States, too, have a key role to play by creating shared spaces for dialogue. 

That’s why CONCAFED (Confederacion Cafetalera Dominicana) and CODOCAFE (Consejo Dominicano del Cafe) were born.

As a federation of coffee farmers, CONCAFED provided invaluable insight, for Jia Yi and her friends. Here was a clear example of how working together can help support the resilience of farmers.

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“CONCAFED representatives are elected by the cooperatives,” Jia Yi explains. “They are very genuine, spontaneous. They were there to represent the interests of the farmers.”

A better world, such as the one the Sustainable Development Goals are trying to create, can appear hard to achieve. But, during her experience in the Dominican Republic, Jia Yi says that she realised that it can be done, if we adopt a comprehensive approach, one that includes different perspectives – the sort of approach that community and collectives can provide.

“True power lies with the collectivity,” says Jia Yi. When farmers unite in collectives, and those collectives’ voices come together in confederations, their influence grows.

And it goes beyond them, too: “As a single entity, the Confederation is powerful,” Jia Yi tells us. “But coupled with NGOs and organisations like the Lavazza Foundation, as well as private sector stakeholders, it becomes even more powerful.”

If a sustainable world is to be achieved, the first step is to come together. Like the coffee farmers in the Dominican Republic, who, Jia Yi says, taught her that:

“We can all aspire to inspire.”

Next week, we’ll discover why, according to Rebecca, ordinary business metrics might not be what we need to measure the progress towards a fair and sustainable world.

 

 

 

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