Securing a livelihood for generations of coffee farmers

Nespresso's Farmer Future Programme includes a pension fund that helps Colombian coffee growers save for retirement and transfer their legacy to the next generation.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020,
By Karen Carmichael
A brighter future for coffee farmers
A brighter future for coffee farmers

Earning a living as a family coffee farmer is hard work, especially in Colombia's mountainous Caldas province. To be successful, growers need to balance raising a family with cultivating coffee and investing any extra funds they earn back into their farms. That nearly lifelong commitment to coffee takes a physical toll, yet, until recently, retirement wasn't possible for many farmers who needed to continue working to make ends meet. Farmers have been concerned about their long-term health and financial security, and an exodus of young people to the cities for more lucrative and less labor-intensive work has left many growers with no one to continue their family farming legacy.

"When I get up and I work these fields, I wonder what will happen in my old age,” says Caldas coffee farmer Alba Maria, whose dream is to one day transfer ownership of her five-acre coffee farm to her daughter and granddaughter. “I think about how I can improve quality of life for me and for my family."

Alba Maria, matriarch of a multigenerational coffee-growing family in Caldas, Colombia, carefully selects only the ripest red coffee cherries for her high-quality Arabica coffee. While young people in this rural region regularly move to cities, Alba Maria is hopeful that her daughter will continue the family's rich coffee traditions.

Photograph by Rena Effendi

Fortunately for Alba Maria, she doesn't have to face the future alone. To help Caldas coffee growers fund hard-earned, well-deserved retirements, and to promote the long-term well-being of the region's coffee-growing communities, Nespresso—together with the Colombian Ministry of Labor, the Aguadas Coffee Growers' Cooperative, coffee supplier Cafexport, and Fairtrade International—launched an innovative pilot retirement fund for farmers who take part in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Programme.

The Nespresso pension fund works in conjunction with Colombia's Beneficios Económicos Periódicos, or BEPS, a voluntary government savings programme designed for people who do not earn enough to contribute to a pension. In addition to their BEPS retirement savings, growers participating in Nespresso's Farmer Future Programme receive an additional contribution from the government, equal to 20 percent of their annual BEPS contribution, when they are ready to retire.

Nespresso has invested $5.4 million in the Farmer Future Programme. About half of that total was spent on pensions. The remaining balance was directly used to fund technical assistance and agronomist support for AAA farmers.

"I am happy to be part of the Nespresso AAA programme because it helps us get a pension and other benefits,” says coffee farmer Don Fabio. “They pay us a good price for our coffee, and they give us a retirement contribution on top."

Don Fabio and his wife, Maria Lindelia Jaramillo Atehortua, have dedicated their lives to growing exceptional coffee high in Andes mountains of Aguadas, Colombia. Don Fabio is one of 1,500 members of the Aguadas Coffee Growers' Cooperative that works with Nespresso to provide crop insurance and a retirement savings programme to its farmer-members.

Photograph by Rena Effendi

Don Fabio, who started receiving a pension in 2018, is one of more than 1,250 farmers operating Nespresso AAA coffee farms who have signed up for the retirement fund. In addition, all farmers who are members of the cooperative and earn Nespresso AAA verification are eligible for life insurance, climate-indexed Farmer Future Crop Insurance, and other benefits designed to help more than 3,000 farmers protect their farms and ensure generational continuity in coffee.

For Nespresso AAA coffee grower Leonel Quintero Osorio, the pilot retirement fund programme offers hope that he will be able to support himself when he is no longer able to work on his farm, and that the next generation of his family will continue his coffee-growing traditions. "It is very satisfying to know that Nespresso supports us with retirement and other benefits,” he says. “With its help, we can cover all our basic needs, and our children and grandchildren can see that there is a secure future in coffee farming."

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