Creating sustainable value is not only Umicore’s aim, but also Rikolto’s (the erstwhile Vredeseilanden) when it comes to supporting coffee farmers in Ecuador: ensuring that farmers get a fair chance in their struggle against climate change, deforestation, the aging population and all other social challenges faced by the world.
The coffee farmers in the Intag valley in the north of Ecuador face a number of challenges. Mining activities in the region attract the younger generations who want to make a lot of money in the short term, which threatens the succession in the family businesses and therefore the production of coffee as a whole. The same mining is also responsible for major deforestation, with all the associated consequences for the local ecosystem.
The financial crisis of the ‘90s left deep scars too. The resulting dollarization did make for a more stable economy, but also ramped up production costs, while they increased at a lower rate in surrounding countries. This seriously affected the price of Ecuadorean coffee on the international market: why pay so much if you can pay less for Colombian coffee that is of better quality?
Global warming, deforestation caused by mining, insect infestations and so on also cause fluctuating crops, which leaves the few farmers still willing and able to produce coffee uncertain of a stable and respectable income.