Coffee farmers are getting into the production of premium specialty coffee to increase their income—thanks in part to Davao-based Coffee for Peace (CFP), a growing community of farmers and business owners advocating inclusive development principles in the coffee industry.
CFP provides training to coffee farmers to develop their skills in coffee production and help them become entrepreneurs who know how to market and sell their own brand of coffee.
At the heart of CFP’s operations is training farmers on coffee processing to develop skills to produce high-quality coffee beans. CFP provides knowledge on the market for farmers to understand what consumers want in coffee, and the value of what they do for awareness on fairer trade pricing, according to CFP CEO and co-founder Felicitas Pantoja.
“As a reputable processor for good beans and an experienced roastery, CFP means business continuity for business owners but also equally support for farming communities. CFP even gives buyers the option to create their own brand under a MOA where 10% of every kilo sold goes back to farmers,” Pantoja said.
“We want farmers to be confident about the business side of farming, understand their market, correctly price and inspire the next generation to be farmpreneurs too,” Pantoja said.
Once the training is complete, CFP provides partner communities post-harvest services at cost such as coffee pulping, coffee dehulling, and coffee drying. The organization also offers partner-farmers and those who buy from them shared services such as toll roasting, packaging, label design, and photography. The training results in higher quality coffee products produced by a community of coffee farmers in the Philippines.
Focused on social entrepreneurship, CFP is also helping in the peace building efforts in Mindanao by allocating a percentage of its profit to its Peace and Reconciliation Teams, which are composed of volunteers from conflict-affected areas and international volunteers.
These volunteers, according to Pantoja, are trained in inter-faith dialogue, cross-cultural comms, trauma healing, relief and medical operations.
Nurturing community “farmerpreneurs” and realizing the country’s potential for premium to specialty coffee go hand in hand. According to Pantoja, only 25% of the country’s total population are served by Filipino coffee farmers. Local cafes are still challenged in sourcing good beans.
“We partner with DTI on bridging gaps such as training, equipment and drying space but getting to a scale that boosts our national reputation as a good coffee producer will take time. From 2,000 kilos at start, we are now at 32,000 kilos and encouraged to continue.”
Coffee for Peace has trained close to 880 farming families from different parts of the country, representing 13 tribes, including some Muslim areas.
To produce “premium specialty coffee from the Philippines” requires a mindset change, she said.
“Our model is to create our own competitors by giving them the secrets to making good coffee. We want to groom ‘farmerpreneurs’ who are also skilled in coffee tasting, financial management and conflict resolution. We want barista interns to dream of having their own coffee kiosks. For every kilo of coffee, one can make 140 cups of 6 ounces, and a barista in Davao nets 5K a day with his own coffee cart. The same can be done anywhere in the Philippines. Imagine if every region’s farmers had their own pop-up café or coffee cart, neighborhoods would also be educated to buy local,” Pantoja said.
A member of the National Coffee Council, Pantoja spoke about the need to streamline various resources from government policy and services and link these to smallholder farmers. “We want every island to join the national movement within the coffee industry to raise the level of coffee quality. Grassroots farmers also mean less carbon footprint for supplying the coffee locals want. We’ve gone to the uplands to help a micro-lot owner assess the possibility of coffee farming. We’ve also linked roasters, who used to order coffee from us, straight to the farming community.”
Coffee is innate in the Filipino culture. “When we visit high-conflict communities, coffee served from a palayok is good quality. When I brought a sample to Canada where I used to live, the roasters said there was potential for premium quality to specialty. But we can only produce limited quantities. Opening opportunities for our farmers drove me to collaborate—inspire baristas to educate customers, get roasters to work with traders who source from farmers,” said Pantoja.
For more information, visit www.coffeeforpeace.com and peacebuilderscommunity.org. Follow Coffee for Peace at www.facebook.com/coffeeforpeace.