Covid 19 crisis: The small growers reality

Covid 19 crisis: The small growers reality

The Covid19 crisis has slowed down activity at every stage, accentuating the need for solutions for small growers. Immediate effects on health, social relationships and revenues drastically. Producers and actors have to respond to the dramatic consequences by urgently heading together towards existing solutions and by preparing the future.

Coffee Producers sat on a bench
Photo: Paulin Beaufreton


Most of the coffee growers live in communities that have been forsaken, firstly, the authorities do not know how to deal with a new situation that surprised everyone, Secondly, the virus, unfortunately, reaches isolated places easier than social services do, this encourages self-protection.

Coffee producers working the land
Photo: Paulin Beaufreton

The first established fact was the contagious character of the pandemic, so communities protected themselves by cutting off roads and access to their territories. This requires a huge organization and joint actions between the people. Coffee communities’ few contacts with the outside are vital because mostly concerns health, coffee transport and sales, and most of the basic products arrive by public transports.

Producers waiting for logistics
Several Smallholders from a cooperative loading their own production heading to washing stations. Santander de Quilichao, Colombia. Photo: Paulin Beaufreton

According to the International Coffee Association, the (1)​ majority of coffee farmers population are over 50 years old​, which make them fragile to this specific disease. This is why such drastic measures were tragic but invaluable.

The information does not systematically reach coffee growers. The quality of the networks, low connectivity and reliability of the pandemic news did not help. Even more than usual, as no official medicine existed, communities protect their health with the use of traditional medicine.

According to beliefs and habits, communities organized healing centres in the villages or at home -following the recommendations of limited social contact. Fulfilling basic hygienic protections worldwide turns out to be impossible for most of them. Indeed, most people in the countryside of producing countries still do not have (2)​ access to clean water, according to the FAO​.

Lady coffee producers
Ladies have to take their toddlers to work they don’t have childcare, Vereda La Mina, Jambaló, Cauca, Colombia. Photo: Paulin Beaufreton

For both cultural and necessary reasons, mutual aid between people always has been one of the main in coffee-growing regions. Restrictions on social contact aiming to limit the pandemic prove to be a huge obstacle for coffee growers. However, the pandemic aftermaths on daily living show the coffee growers resilience, especially because they have no insurance.

If they are sick, geographical isolation and health care costs make the healing tremendously difficult. For now, they keep organizing themselves at the community, familial and individual levels for their survival. Exchanges of food and services, diversification in cultures, the creation of workshops to spread good practices, visiting and supporting the isolated people. It helps to remedy low economic activity and elusive official preventive means and medicines that do not contribute to their social needs.

coffee producers community together
Collective meal, workers bring their food every morning to produce a collective lunch. Vereda El Vandolero, Jambaló, Cauca, Colombia. Photo: Paulin Beaufreton

At the very beginning of the coffee supply chain, smallholders have been obscenely affected by the situation. Closing of boundaries and temporary prohibition of movement make many of them unable to work. For the ones who could access the plantations, who are paid around 0,10USD  kilo harvested.
Being in a collectivity is usually one of the main pleasures, especially during lunches and at night-time when remoteness from friends and family make solidarity and social entertainment indispensable. Because of the coronavirus, conditions have been fixed to scale meals, space out the beds in dormitories, and strategies for harvesting with social distance have been set. As a result, the labour force has become scarce and can be more expensive, which tend to have a knock-on effect on the whole chain.

Coffee Workers been feed in the farm
Farm workers’ lunch. Photo: Paulin Beaufreton

The reactions of coffee producers facing coronavirus illustrate their resilience and capacity for organizing themselves. At the same time, it is clear that their own initiatives alone are not sufficient to have a decent level of living in a globalized world. Indeed, the poorer have been the most affected because their thin revenue totally disappeared. The sanitary crisis makes their living conditions worst than it was and increases the need for systematic support.

Paulin Beaufreton
Documentalist, coffee and farming reality.
Coffee enthusiast and Ex-fairtrade seller
Looking for the reality of the coffee processes/productions.


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