Fresh Coffee Team: USAID, Starbucks, Conservation International

WASHINGTON, DC, September 29, 2004 (ENS): To improve the livelihoods of small-scale coffee farmers and conserve the environment, Conservation International (CI) and Starbucks Coffee have joined forces with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to create the Conservation Coffee Alliance.

With a focus on Central America and Mexico, the Alliance promotes private-sector approaches that are environmentally sensitive, socially responsible and economically viable.

On Monday, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, hosted the official signing of the memorandum of understanding in Mexico City launching the Alliance.

“Instead of destroying productive land, coffee cultivation is now an engine of conservation. Instead of slash and burn, we are conserving biodiversity,” said Garza, addressing businessmen and coffee growers at a Starbucks café. “The partnership model we are honoring today is the business model of the future.”

Representatives from Chiapas coffee cooperatives joined Starbucks President Orin Smith for the signing ceremony. The USAID Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean Adolfo Franco took part in the ceremony along with the Vice President of Conservation International Glenn Prickett.

Franco said, "This Alliance approach is a new, creative way of doing business. It combines market forces and business interests to help improve the lives of rural people and the environment worldwide."

CI works directly with farmers to promote environmentally responsible growing practices such as water and soil conservation, crop diversification, and chemical fertilizer and pesticide reduction that help protect the surrounding forest, streams and wildlife.

"By uniting the strengths of the government, conservation and private sectors, we are breaking new ground in supporting small-scale coffee farmers and raising the scale of biodiversity conservation in Mexico and Central America," said Prickett.

Starbucks works with CI and the cooperatives providing farmers with financial support, technical assistance to raise the quality of their coffee and a market for their crops. Last year, Starbucks purchased 1.8 million pounds of Conservation Coffee at price premiums ranging from 60 to 200 percent higher than local prices in Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Conservation International also manages the $6 million Verde Ventures fund which provides debt and equity financing to coffee cooperatives and other small businesses contributing to biodiversity conservation in CI's priority areas. In January 2004, Starbucks announced a $2.5 million direct loan to help capitalize the fund.

The Alliance brings to community level conservation efforts what they call a “field-to-cup” approach that includes all aspects of producing, processing and marketing specialty coffee.

Through economic incentives and technical assistance to small farmers, the goal of the Alliance is to expand the areas of coffee fields using the best practices for conservation and making more high quality green coffee available to roasters. Building on the success of a six-year partnership between Starbucks and CI, the Alliance will focus on projects in Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama.

Over three years, the U.S. government will provide $1.2 million and Starbucks will contribute $1.5 million to fund the Alliance.