Menu

Why is Fratello choosing to support the Rainforest Alliance certification?

January 30, 2008

Fratello Coffee has wanted to support a greater cause when purchasing our coffees.  We are choosing to work directly with farmers, and when possible purchase Rainforest Alliance (RFA) products.  This does not mean we are not going to continue to source Organic and Fairtrade Organic products, it just means we would rather choose the RFA Certification on our coffees.

I have had some issues in the past bringing in Organic certified coffees, not because I don’t agree with organic certification, but simply because I know most coffee farms are indeed organic.  A lot of farmers don’t use pesticides, chemicals and un-natural fertilizers because they can’t afford them.  These same farmers can’t afford the to undergo certification to become “Organic”.

 

(Healthy envoirnment in Bolivia)

While I agree that farmers should be paid more for QUALITY products, and agree with the philosphy’s surrounding Fairtrade.  I’ve always wondered at the track-ability of the funds so that I can ensure they are reaching the actual farmers and workers on the farm.

To me, it is much more important to get funds directly to a farmer, the workers and their families, than it is to pay a premium which goes to the Fairtrade certified Co-op that purchases coffees from the farmers.  I do know that Fairtrade has made huge living and working improvements to many area’s in the world, but I’m unable to trace our funds directly to the source.  Accountability is very important to us.

Fratello wants to support our partners in the coffee growing comunities, and we want to ensure that the farmers and workers are not only paid well, but are well looked after.  We also want to ensure that the total environment is looked at, not simply that they are organic.

Rainforest Alliance auditors measure farms against ten key principles of sustainable agriculture.  These 10 key factors were designed by Rainforest Alliance and other members of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) – a coalition of nonprofit conservation organizations that work together to promote socially responsible and environmentally sustainable agriculture.

(healthy coffee farm and enviornment in Brazil)

For more information on the 10 key factors, please read below.1 – Management SystemThe adoption of sustainable agriculture requires a social and environmental management system that allows farmers and auditors alike to confirm that farms are being run in compliance with the SAN standard and the laws of their country.  Most farmers find that implementing such a management system not only improves conditions for workers and the environment, it also results in a better organized and more efficient farm.

(Deforestation in Bolivia)

2 – Ecosystem Conservation

The standard requires farmers to conserve existing ecosystems and facilitate ecological restoration of critical areas, often through reforestation with native species.  This includes protecting waterways and wetlands from erosion and contamination, prohibiting logging and other deforestation, and maintaining vegetation barriers, as well as measures to prevent negative impacts on natural areas outside the farm.

3 – Wildlife Protection

(Natural wildlife in Peru)

Certified farms serve as refuges for wildlife, so farmers need to keep track of the wildlife and habitats that exist on their land and take specific steps to protect them, especially endangered species.  This includes educationg workers, prohibiting hunting and the removal of plants and animals from the land, protecting nests and critical habitat, and either releasing captive wildlife or registering it with the proper authorities.

4 – Water Conservation

Water treatment tanks

(Water treatment tanks in Brazil)

The standard requires that farmers take measures to conserve water, which begin with monitoring water sources and consumption.  The installation, or modification of technology may be necessary to reduce water consumption on the farm, or avoid contamination of springs and rivers on and near their property.  Farmers should have the proper permits for water use, treat wastewater and monitor water quality.

5 – Working Conditions

(Healthy and happy family members)

Farmers must ensure fair treatment and good working conditions for all employees, as established by such international bodies as the United Nations and International Labour Organization.  The standards prohibit forced and child labor and all forms of discrimination and abuse.  Workers should be aware of their rights and farm policies and enjoy legally established salaries, work schedules and any benefits required by the national government.  If housing is provided, it must be in good condition, with potable water, sanitary facilities and waste collection.  Workers and their families should have access to healthcare and education.

6 – Occupational HealthCertified farms must have occupational health and safety programs to reduce the risk of accidents.  This means the workers recieve safety training, especially regarding agrochemicals.  Farmers porvide the necessary protective equipment and ensure that farm infrastructure, machinery and other equipment are in good condition and pose no danger to human health.  The standard contains extensive criteria for establishing a safe work environment, avoiding the effects of agrochemicals on workers and others, identifiying potential dangers and preparing for emergencies.

7 – Community RelationsThe standard requires farmers to be good neighbors and inform surrounding communities and local interest groups about their activities and plans.  They should consult with interested parties about the potential impacts of their farm and contribute to local development through employement, training and public work.

8 – Integrated Crop ManagementThe Sustainable Agriculture Network encourage the elimination of chemical products that pose dangers to people and the environment.  Certified farms eliminate such products by using integrated crop management to reduce pests.  They must record all agrochemical use and work to reduce or eliminate dangerous products and may not use transgenic organisms, products that are banned in their country, or products prohibited by national and international agreements.

9 – Soil ConservationOne goal of sustainable agriculture is the long-term improvement of soils, which is why certifed farms take steps to prevent erosion, base fertilization on crop requirements and soil characteristics, and use organic matter to enrich soils.  Vegetative ground cover and mechanical weeding are used to reduce agrochemical use whenever possible.

10 – Integrated Waste ManagementCertified farms are clean and orderly with programs for managing waste through recycling, reduction and reuse.  Waste is treated and disposed of in ways that minimize environmental and health impacts.  Workers are educated about managing waste properly on the farm and in their communities.

(Rainforest Alliance certificate)

Information from this post was given to us from the Rainforest Alliance organization