Coffee Belongs to the Farmer! Breaking Chains to Ignite Prosperity.

Coffee Belongs to the Farmer: Transforming the Coffee Trade with Fairness and Transparency

Coffee Belongs to the Farmer: Transforming the Coffee Trade with Fairness and Transparency

In the global coffee market, the path from farm to cup is often obscured, leaving coffee growers vulnerable to a complex and frequently inequitable trade system. As an importer deeply invested in ethical sourcing and sustainability, I have observed the hardships faced by coffee growers due to this opacity. Coffee Belongs to the Farmer is a vision for a transformative shift in the coffee trade, emphasizing transparency, fairness, and sustainability. Our goal is to reshape the industry to better support those at its foundation—the coffee growers—ensuring they are compensated fairly and can engage in sustainable cultivation practices. Coffee Belongs to the Farmer is fostering a market that benefits all, from the soil to the sip.

The Need for Change

The current coffee trade system is enshrouded in a lack of transparency, especially concerning market pricing. This opacity prevents coffee growers from understanding and influencing the economics of their products, often resulting in unjust compensation for their labor and investment. Such conditions not only undermine the growers' ability to sustain themselves and their families but also perpetuate a cycle of poverty and exploitation within coffee-producing communities. For instance, without transparent pricing, farmers are forced to sell their beans at prices that do not reflect their true market value, which inhibits their capacity to improve farming techniques or invest in quality improvements. The pressing need for change is evident, as this system not only affects individual growers but also the quality of coffee that reaches consumers worldwide. By introducing a model of transparency and fairness, we can begin to dismantle the barriers that prevent equitable and sustainable growth in the coffee sector.

Proposed Solution: Price Guarantee System

To address these enduring challenges, Jamii Coffee implemented the "Coffee Belongs to the Farmer" system, a price guarantee model based on actual production costs. This system ensures that coffee growers are compensated fairly, receiving a stable and equitable price that genuinely reflects the costs and labor involved in coffee cultivation. Here is how it works:

  1. Cost Evaluation: Through collaboration with agricultural economists and coffee farmers, we will establish a comprehensive assessment of the average costs of coffee production, including labor, inputs, and sustainable farming practices.
  2. Price Setting: Based on these evaluations, a minimum price guarantee is set for coffee purchases. This price will be adjusted annually to reflect changes in production costs and market conditions.
  3. Contractual Commitments: Jamii Coffee and roasters enter into contracts that commit them to this pricing model, ensuring long-term stability and trust between roasters and farmers.

By providing financial security and predictability, this system empowers coffee growers to invest in environmentally sustainable practices and innovations in coffee production. Additionally, it mitigates the risk of market volatility, allowing farmers to plan and budget more effectively, which can lead to improved livelihoods and community development.

Overcoming Challenges

The introduction of the "Coffee Belongs to the Farmer" system initially faced significant hurdles, particularly regarding the lack of reliable production cost data. However, Jamii Coffee collaboration with Charles Mutwiri of Mukarimu Farm proved instrumental in overcoming these challenges. Through dedicated efforts to gather and analyze production costs, we developed a robust model that supports transparent and fair pricing mechanisms.

The collaboration involved:

  • Educational Awareness: Conducting sessions with Charles to explain the benefits of the system and how he can contribute to and benefit from it.
  • Data Collection Initiatives: Engaging Charles to accurately record and report costs of production from the beginning of the season to the end.
  • Technology Integration: Utilizing software to track and manage data efficiently, ensuring accessibility and transparency.

This model not only addressed the initial data challenges but also set a precedent for how collaborative efforts can lead to meaningful change in the coffee industry. By maintaining open communication and trust, we laid a foundation for a more equitable coffee trade system.

Potential Drawbacks and Mitigation Strategies

While the proposed price guarantee system promises significant benefits, it also presents challenges, particularly in redistributing risk. Under the new system, without forward contracts and support from roasters, farmers like Charles might bear risks related to quality degradation as coffee is stored longer in warehouses. Additionally, they continue to face ongoing challenges such as unpredictable weather and fluctuating market prices. To mitigate these risks, the following strategies are essential:

  1. Risk Sharing Agreements: Develop contracts that not only fix prices but also include clauses that share the risks associated with quality between growers, importers, and roasters.
  2. Quality Control Systems: Implement robust quality control measures for the production and maintenance of high-quality coffee.
  3. Insurance Programs: Adopt and support climate insurance systems and initiatives that cover extreme weather conditions and catastrophic events, protecting farmers' incomes. Such initiatives include Climate Smart Coffee by Sprout.

By establishing trust and transparent agreements, we can safeguard the interests of growers and ensure that the system does not inadvertently shift undue burden onto them. The relationship between Jamii Coffee and Charles is a prime example of how mutual respect and clear communication can form the backbone of successful implementation.

Benefits of the Proposed Change

The benefits of implementing a price guarantee system are manifold and extend well beyond the immediate financial gains for coffee growers. This system promotes:

  • Transparency: Clear visibility into pricing and production costs encourages fairness and accountability throughout the supply chain.
  • Sustainability: Fair compensation enables growers to invest in sustainable farming practices, which lead to better soil health, biodiversity, and reduced environmental impact.
  • Quality Improvement: With better financial stability, growers can focus on quality over quantity, potentially enhancing the overall quality of coffee produced.
  • Innovation: Economic stability fosters innovation in farming techniques and business models within the coffee sector.

Moreover, by reducing instances of impact washing—where claims of sustainability are not substantiated by practices—the Coffee Belongs to the Farmer model ensures that the benefits claimed are real and tangible. Ultimately, the adoption of this model can inspire similar changes across other agricultural sectors, leading to broader impacts on global trade practices.

Case Studies and Parallels

Looking beyond the coffee industry, similar transformative changes have been observed in other sectors through the implementation of fair wage and trade practices. For example, the chocolate industry has seen significant improvements in producer compensation and sustainability through direct trade practices. These movements have not only improved livelihoods but also enhanced product quality and consumer trust.

Such parallels provide valuable lessons and inspiration for the coffee trade. By adopting models that emphasize equitable compensation and transparent operations, we can ensure that improvements in trade practices are meaningful and sustained.


The transformation of the coffee trade is not just a necessity but a moral imperative. As an importer committed to ethical sourcing and sustainability, Jamii Coffee advocates for systems where fairness, transparency, and sustainability are not optional but fundamental. The "Coffee Belongs to the Farmer" model ensures that every cup of coffee not only tastes good but also does good to the world. It is time to create a future that rewards all participants fairly. Together, we can revolutionize the coffee trade, one step at a time.

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