DAN KATZ AN ECO- WARRIOR FOR BIODIVERSITY
For over twenty-five years, the Rainforest Alliance has managed to create a chain of international cooperation to support tropical forests and their inhabitants.
The key tool for this NGO is a label for farms that have been trained in implementing sustainable agriculture and producing quality coffee, in line with the Nespresso AAA Sustainable QualityTM Programme.
WHY AND HOW DID YOU SET UP RAINFOREST ALLIANCE?
D. K. When I graduated from college in 1984, my friends and I realised how unaware the public was about deforestation taking place in tropical forests: flora and fauna in danger, indigenous communities with no voice to defend themselves, and so on. In New York in 1987 we coordinated the first global conference on the present state and the future hopes for conserving endangered tropical forests... Around fifty speakers, including government representatives and company leaders, spoke to seven hundred audience members about one issue: What solutions must we implement to protect this biodiversity and humanity in danger? Shortly after the conference we started developing programs, including the certification of forests, agricultural lands and tourism. Our persistence and passion allowed us to overcome every obstacle. Since then, this strong will has become the signature of Rainforest Alliance: a philosophy of action.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING WITH NESPRESSO?
D. K. We decided to work together in 2003, on the development of the AAA Programme. This is a series of recommendations for farmers and is implemented mainly to help them produce fine quality coffee while conserving the natural resources on which their farms depend, and fostering fair and balanced relationships with local communities. This strategic plan, which is unique in the world for this industry, is built on a win-win notion: it is good for the planet and for the farmers, but also for Nespresso Members, who gain access to exceptional coffee in terms of taste, ecology and ethics. This is the meaning of the Sustainable QualityTM label. Only 1 to 2% of global production achieves this quality.
AT WHAT POINT ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THIS PROCESS?
D. K. While Nespresso contributes its know-how to the selection and cultivation of the best coffee, our expertise targets the farming practices themselves: we work with producers who opt for a sustainable model. When these coffee farmers are ready, their parcels are awarded Rainforest Alliance certification.
WHAT DOES THE CERTIFICATION MEAN FOR COFFEE FARMERS AND HOW DO THEY OBTAIN IT?
D. K. The Rainforest Alliance Certified seal guarantees that the coffee has been grown in plantations where the forest is conserved. It means that farm workers are paid decently and treated with respect, with the key element being access to education and healthcare. Farmers wishing to obtain our label must fulfil a certain number of conditions. In particular they must use farming techniques which respect the environment and guarantee quality coffee beans. Basically, we give the farmers a list of criteria, then we provide assistance in the long term: an advisor studies the stages in the growing process to determine which are carried out well, and which require specific attention. Soil health. Waste processing. Relations with farm employees. Nothing is left to chance. Once the farm is certified, we help it to reach a premium market, with a purchase price higher than conventional coffee.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IN THE FIELD?
D. K. Reaching all these coffee growers, who mostly live in isolated regions, work on very small parcels of land and have limited resources. Also, explaining with persuasive language what we do, and the advantages of making the social and environmental improvements required by the program. Our goal is for them to appropriate this sustainable approach. In order to create solutions on a local scale, among the populations with the highest needs, it is essential to build up our image in these countries, so that their people know they can work alongside us, in complete trust.
HOW IS NESPRESSO INVOLVED IN THIS PARTNERSHIP?
D. K. Nespresso works both upstream and downstream in a powerful value chain for coffee heritage. In the field, it focuses its effort on ensuring that most of the farms it works with are in the AAA Programme. This is a guarantee for Nespresso to develop a sustainable source of excellent coffee. In addition, we set ourselves objectives which are shared by a certain number of selected farms. Downstream, Nespresso works on informing enthusiasts about Grands Crus: good coffee that is grown according to the charter we have defined together and is beneficial for the environment. Wooded plantations provide buffer zones which are rich in biodiversity. This is what we call a virtuous circle.
“NESPRESSO CONTRIBUTES ITS KNOW-HOW TO THE CULTIVATION OF THE BEST COFFEE, OUR EXPERTISE TARGETS THE FARMING PRACTICES THEMSELVES.”
Text by Nadia Hamam Photographs by Olivier Gachen and Maggie Lear