In our last blog post, we introduced Leonardo Quattrucci’s article for the World Economic Forum, where he says that young people must be committed to resilience, sustainability, and solidarity if they hope address the many challenges facing our world.

Sustaining what, exactly?

That second idea, sustainability, might just be the single most popular word in the professional world these days. It would be hard to find a business, NGO, government body, or leader that doesn’t talk about a commitment to sustainability. In this case, though, it’s not a cliche; rather, it’s popular because short-term thinking has overtaken so much of our world, and we really do need to recenter our collective attention on the future.

Happyness Pallangyo stands in front of the newly expanded area of the coffee shop she was able to open with the support of Coffee Kids.

In the case of Coffee Kids, sustainability is at the heart of what we do: sustainability of the land that coffee is grown on, sustainability of opportunity for farmers, and sustainability of the industry as a whole.

Sustainability of the land is clear. Climate change is shifting everything from moisture levels to weather patterns to the availability of pollinators to prevalence of pests and diseases. Whereas environmental sustainability in coffee once meant introducing new techniques to limit the negative impacts of growing, today it requires actively managing multiple changing factors while simultaneously looking beyond the horizon to the changes we will need to make tomorrow. In short, it is far too complex and far too urgent to expect farmers (or anyone else, for that matter) to tackle alone. At Coffee Kids, we’re turning cutting-edge environmental sustainability research, helping the next generation of coffee farmers understand and implement what they will need to do to preserve coffee-growing land for their own children.

Sustainability of opportunity involves positioning farmers as entrepreneurs, so that they can reap more of the financial benefits of coffee. In some cases this means diversifying into other crops, in some cases it means opening up a side business like a coffee shop or bakery, and in some cases it means boosting coffee yields. Regardless of which path is right for each young farmer, Coffee Kids is there to empower them

Helping turn coffee into a sustainable livelihood is the right thing to do for young farmers, but it also protects the viability of the industry. Globalization has brought new opportunities to urban areas in coffee-growing regions. That’s a net-positive for everyone involved, but it means that growing coffee is no longer among the best jobs in the region. If we expect farmers to stay in coffee-growing (i.e. if we expect coffee growing to have a workforce in the future), we must find ways to make it a more sustainable source way of life.

Coffee Kids is helping young coffee farmers address Quattrucci’s challenge to become more sustainable head-on. Keep an eye out for our next article, which will focus on how we build solidarity between young people in coffee, and between farmers and industry.

This blog is second in a three-part series about the guiding principles that can help young people navigate the world they are inheriting.