COFFEE IN HAITI
Haiti has been growing coffee since the 18th century and was once the largest producer of coffee in the world. However, the coffee industry took devastating blows with Haiti’s independence from France in 1804 and the US embargo on the Haitian dictatorship in the 1990’s. The coffee industry in Haiti is starting back up with rusted equipment, an unreliable political system, and out-of-practice coffee workers. Bringing back this industry will create much-needed jobs to this country. We intend to investigate and develop a plan to improve and sustain this industry.
Prior to declaring their independence, Haiti was a French colony known as St. Domingue. Their slave-based coffee industries had been exceptionally successful and quick to develop. French colonists began growing coffee in Haiti in 1734 and by 1788 Haiti was providing half of the world’s coffee. Coffee formed the backbone of the Haitian economy. The country produced their own beans and the original Arabica typica variety. When Haitian’s declared independence in 1804, the coffee industry deteriorated to practically nothing. Today, Haiti’s coffee industry barely registers in international surveys.
Throughout the years, natural disasters, dictators, and more have all hurt coffee production. Haitians seem to have a simple relationship with their coffee, they grind their own beans, using a sieve (or sock) to strain and the water goes right through, making a rich, dark espresso-like cup. Coffee is largely a cottage industry, grown by families and farmers. Despite the setbacks to the Haitian coffee industry, the culture around it has remained, but currently the production and exportation of coffee is incredibly low.
• Develop a model for sustainable growth of the Haitian coffee industry in order to bolster the country’s economy as a whole.
• Work with organizations that are already operating in the Haiti, such as Just Haiti, in order to supply coffee growers with what they need.
• Spread awareness of Haitian coffee among business owners in San Luis Obispo.
• Learn about the specific role of coffee in Haitian culture.
• Purchase some Haitian coffee in order to try it
Bello Mundo Café
In our efforts to learn more about the coffee industry, we visited Bello Mundo Cafe in Downtown San Luis Obispo, and spoke with Jon, one of the owners and cofounders of Bello Mundo. Jon gave us some insight into what it takes to source coffee for a coffee shop that cares about the quality of coffee as well as the farms and practices used to produce the coffee. Unfortunately Bello Mundo does not serve fair trade coffee, or Haitian coffee. That said, Jon and his partners have made sure to work with coffee sources, who are hands on and directly involved with the communities who produce the coffee in Guatemala on a regular basis. The company that sources the coffee for Bello Mundo, Coffee Shrub, visits the Guatemalan farms often to ensure quality of product as well as to make sure working conditions and wages surpass the guidelines set out by the Fair Trade organization. Jon’s account shed some light to the fact that too often Fair Trade companies do the bare minimum to pass the yearly inspection to qualify, and do not actually provide the work environment quality that one would expect from Fair Trade.
We met with a local coffee roaster, Reid Patterson, who taught us about the different species of coffee, the roasting processes, and the direct trade process. He mostly works with Sweet Maria’s, which is one of the largest green suppliers in the nation. Although Reid is not involved with Haiti personally, he mentioned that they are probably growing more Robusta plants instead of Arabica because of the deforestation and climate. In Haiti, the climate is a hot a humid tropical, which causes the growers to plant in higher grounds. Robusta plants are more heat resistant, less sensitive to insects, and has a higher yield of production, but most people do not like the “burnt” or “rubbery” taste of the beans. Arabica are more commonly preferred because of their high sugar and low caffeine content, compared to robusta’s low sugar and high caffeine content. Reid concluded with saying that the product quality and the relationships are the top priorities in direct trade.
Last Year’s Coffee Group
The Coffee Group in Fall of 2014 suggested that we continue to spread awareness around the San Luis community about the Haitian coffee industry. They also forwarded a contact that is from Haiti to our group. Last year they worked with him on raising money for farming equipment for Haitian coffee farmers.
- Population: 10 million
- 75% of the population lives on $2 per day or less.
- Public education at the primary level is now free, but private and parochial schools provide around 75% of educational programs offered.
- Poorest country in the Western Hemisphere
- 41% of the population was unemployed in 2010
Just Haiti’s model of “Fair Trade Plus” not only pays the farmers a fair trade price for their coffee, but also returns all profits to the community. In 2012, 64% of every consumer dollar was returned directly to the growers.
Statement from Just Haiti:
“Through our “fair trade-plus” model of doing business, Just Haiti aims to build an equitable and fair partnership between coffee consumers in the United States and coffee growers in Haiti. Our goals are for the growers to not only grow high-quality coffee but also to own — and profit from — all post-harvest operations required to export and sell their coffee. The growers in Haiti receive the full value of their labor, and consumers in the US purchase high-quality coffee at a fair price, knowing that the Haitian families who produce the coffee are earning a just wage. Just Haiti works with the most vulnerable and economically at-risk communities, who would not otherwise have access to our technical assistance and market development. We seek communities that already have a US-based partner, such as a church or non-profit organization, which is in agreement with the Just Haiti vision. Just Haiti pays the fair trade price up front — without any reductions–then exports, roasts, packages, and sells the coffee in the United States. Afterward, all profits go directly to the growers and their families“
This organization demonstrates a method of dealing with the problems in Haiti that is by far the best that we have seen in our research. We hope to spread the their ideas to other organizations supporting fair trade coffee and hoping to help Haiti get back to producing as much coffee as it has in the past, and rebooting it’s economy. Just Haiti started in 2007 working with just one grower community in Haiti. They’ve expanded to two different communities and are very close to reaching agreement with three others.
FAIR TRADE VS. DIRECT TRADE
In researching Haiti and applying the information gleaned from our interviews we have come to some conclusions and recommendations for the Haitian coffee farmers.
To be certified Fair Trade you have to pay a fee to Haiti’s Fair Trade organization as well as abide by their guidelines. Fair Trade puts limits on child labor, pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, etc. Usually you, as a coffee grower, would be part of a coop of coffee farmers and pay the fee together. This ensures the growers are paid the Fair Trade price for there product.
- The quality of coffee is difficult to ensure especially because the coffee is coming from a coop (you get a mix from all the plantations involved).
- The growers have to pay the fee to use the Fair Trade brand.
- Fair Trade regulations can be easily circumvented.
Direct Trade requires a relationship between buyer and grower, one with open communication and hands on quality assurance. For example, Just Haiti is a non-profit that buys green coffee beans at fair-trade prices from plantations it works with; they roast package and sell the coffee in the US then return the excess revenue to the coffee growers. The plantations they work with plant, weed, harvest and process the crop all by hand—without the use of machines or chemicals. They also visit the plantations to make sure they are growing the coffee plants with shade* and pick only the ripe* coffee cherries. The result is good quality coffee that is worth more than the Fair Trade price.
- Coffee plants like to grow in the shade. When they are grown in full sun the plant is stressed and requires more water and fertilizer. The shade/sun the coffee is grown in comes out in the taste, higher quality coffee is grown in the shade.
- A coffee bean comes inside of a coffee cherry. Good quality coffee is picked by hand when they cherries are red and ripe as opposed to by machine picking all the cherries including green and unripe ones.
- You can eat the cherries but that’s not common.
Present to coffee growers the success of direct trade models, and encourage them to clean up their practices so that the direct trade buyers are interested in working with them. This will bring more money back to the Haiti, and the coffee industry there and boost the local economy. In the remaining couple weeks, we hope to discover and help facilitate these kind of partnerships.
What do you hope to accomplish?
We hope to raise awareness about Just Haiti’s model and mission. It is our opinion that this model is the most reasonable and effective way to revitalize Haiti’s coffee industry.
Why do you want to do this? How do you plan to do this? What are some of the other options?
Haiti ranks among the poorest countries in 2015. By applying the direct trade model to the country’s coffee industry, we could make sure that coffee workers in Haiti are treated and compensated fairly, thereby improving their quality of life and bringing income to the nation, which would strengthen their economy as a whole. Other methods of accomplishing this same effect might include typical charity relief efforts or Peace-Corps-like aid, both of which require more or less constant funding that only lasts for as long as more affluent nations feel sorry for poorer countries. The advantage of using direct trade with Haitian coffee lies in its self-sufficiency as a business model – no external funding is necessary once the model is in place. For this reason, we believe it is in the best interests of Haitian coffee producers to engage in direct trade with coffee distributors.
We prefer the Direct Trade to the Fair Trade practice. Not only are fair practices ensured but also good quality. Further, we think Haiti could be especially susceptible to cheating the Fair Trade practices given its high corruption index*. We know that not all coffee buyers operate as non-profits like Just Haiti, however there are direct trade buyers interested in high quality, shade grown, hand processed coffee that are willing to pay for it.
*Haiti is ranked in the top 8% of corruption in countries by Transparence International https://www.transparency.org/country/#HTI
|Stakeholder Groups||Interests at stake in relation to project||Effect of project on interests||Stakeholder importance for project success||Degree of influence of stakeholder|
|Haitian Coffee Growers and Processors||Revenue, sustainability, and proper infrastructure||Positive||5||5|
|Haitian Government||Economic stability||Positive||2||5|
|Consumers||Cost, quality, ethical practices||Positive||5||5|
|Fair Trade Organization||Revenue and Reputation||Negative||1||2|
SOIL in Haiti
Solar Drying in Rwanda
Haiti’s Coffee: Will It Come Back?
Political and Economical History of Haiti
The United States and the Haitian Revolution
Sam: Yo, I’m a Software and Web developer, graduating from the GrC department this December. This project has given me a lot of insight into getting quality sustainable trade lines established with small communities in other countries. A lot of personal communication and relationships must be formed, and it’s rather hard to do without actually getting out there. I’m going to be keeping these things in mind whenever I’m working with someone remotely, and make the effort to travel and meet in person, as face to face communication seems to be the most effective form in any situation.
Elisha: I am a third year Economics student from Menlo Park, California. I’m concentrating in marketing and am interested in the structure of markets. This project opened my eyes to the importance of technology–it gives accessibility. Our biggest problems with progressing our project came from the inability to access/connect with people in Haiti. I found this project rewarding, because we were researching real solutions and encountering real problems along the way.
Matt: I am a 4th year Agricultural Communication student originally from Porterville, California. Currently, I am working for Jaffa Grill as a cashier, meal preparer and social media manager. This project has shown me the history behind Haiti and all the problems that the famers have faced over the centuries. I’ve learned how difficult it is to get, and stay, in contact with someone living in a “developing nation.”
Quinn: I am a third year psychology student and this is my first year here at Cal Poly, I’m from Ferndale, Ca. I currently work as a barista and a nanny. I took from this project that it is incredibly difficult to make a difference from so far away, without a reliable contact who has first hand knowledge of the problem, possible solutions, and the culture, on the ground.
Garrett: I am a fourth year philosophy major, originally from San Jose, California. I work as a physics and engineering tutor at Cal Poly in addition to working downtown at LUSH Cosmetics. In my free time, I enjoy petty semantic arguments and long walks to the espresso bar. My interest in this project stemmed from the intersection of my studies in ethics and my addiction to caffeine. Although we made progress on our project this quarter by collecting and interpreting quite a lot of information regarding coffee trade practices in Haiti, we have a long way to go before we will be able to implement our ideas on any large scale. In order to achieve our long-term goal of revitalizing the Haitian coffee industry, it is imperative that we leave the university classroom and work directly with coffee producers and distributors in Haiti as well as with coffee consumers in industrialized nations. Only through this kind of holistic approach will any real progress be made.
Please start with a short statement of purpose, problem statement, or summary. Move all my comments in red to the very bottom of your website so I can refer to what I wrote, but the reader won’t be inconvenienced by my comments. At present, this would receive a “B+”, Let me know if you’d like me to review the website again before the final presentation. I’d like to see a plan of what you’d actually do… additionally, I’d like to see some connection with people on the ground. I understand this may not happen, but please give it a shot. Agriculture wise, you might communicate with biochar as well as the sanitation group.
- Wait, you say “our coffee”… do you have coffee? Do you have a producer? I’m confused. Is this what Just Haiti is saying? Please clarify.
this statement should be the first statement on your website
- Please start with a short statement of purpose, problem statement, or summary.
- Why aren’t you drinking coffee?
- I wonder if Just Haiti might want to partner with us to make a more holistic support system where we could look at some health and agriculture concerns… I’m thinking like providing sanitary services, clean water, cooking, drying technologies?
- It seems you’ve had this conclusion statement several times. Please look over your website and make it more cohesive.
- Short bios
- Can you eat the cherries?
- Direct links to all these companies and last year’s website, etc. please
- I like this, can you try this idea out with some cafes and/or stores and see what the result is. What does Just Haiti say about this idea?
- I’d like to see some people in this Stakeholder. Can you connect with a village through Just Haiti? Could we see some narrative associated with the Stakeholder Analysis?
More statements after Dec 14, 2015: this is much improved. It still isn’t clear to me exactly what you wouldo to stimulate direct trade. You make a proposal, but what do you propose doing?