In our third piece discussing Leonardo Quattrucci’s article for the World Economic Forum, we’ll look at the most complex element of his prescription for young people to remake their world: solidarity. If you missed the first two pieces, they’re available here and here

With the help continued support of HRNS over the past decade, UNIOCAFE has grown to represent 29 producer associations.

Solidarity is the toughest part of this puzzle for a number of reasons–the definition is not as clear as sustainability and resilience; the geographic isolation of rural communities can make it hard to link young farmers to each other and to other stakeholders within the sector; and industry has long treated farmers as just one more input, rather than a source of valuable knowledge and perspectives on the future of coffee. Nevertheless, we at Coffee Kids are working to address each of the issues that make solidarity a challenge.

In terms of the definition, it rests on the question of, “solidarity with whom?” Do young farmers need to be better connected to their peers in their own communities? To their peers in other regions? To the broader industry? Our answer is, all of the above.

We see farmer organizations as an essential tool for all farmers, and especially young farmers, to be more powerful economic actors within the supply chain. We help build these organizations as a means of connecting young farmers to each other locally, and to increase their power within the marketplace. The result is that young farmers can work together to secure better prices for their beans, to implement techniques that increase yields, and to adjust practices in the face of a changing climate.

As the same time, we connect select young leaders from within our programs to their peers in other regions, creating a global network of young farmers who feel a commitment to coffee and who are sharing what they know about what it takes to succeed. This global network gives young farmers a sense of pride in what they do, and empowers farmers to see themselves as a part of something larger than their own plots and villages. 

In 2017, UNIOCAFE opened space in the association for a Youth Committee.
In 2017, UNIOCAFE opened space in the association for a Youth Committee.

Finally, with regards to solidarity between young farmers and the larger sector, Coffee Kids is a tireless advocate for industry leaders, traders, and other NGOs to take the needs and perspectives of young farmers seriously. Young farmers have many more employment options than they did even ten years ago, and if we do not support them in making coffee a dignified and family-supporting way of life, then they are likely to abandon coffee altogether. We know that these farmers are the caretakers of a crop that we all care about and rely on, and that without their leadership there is no viable future for coffee.

Until there is solidarity between young farmers and industry players, and amongst young farmers, we cannot fulfill Quattrucci’s charge to create a future where rising leaders use solidarity, resilience, and sustainability to remake our world.

We hope you’ll join us in this vital work!

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