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By Ruth Ann Church and Josiane Cotrim Macieira, The International Women’s Coffee Alliance
In coffee, the women who perform much of the labor – up to 70%, according to the ITC’s Coffee Exporters’ Guide – to grow, harvest, process, and export coffee are all too often invisible.
Few organizations are focused on collecting or publishing data specifically on the women involved in the supply chain for commodities like coffee; and there has been little to no funding allocated to this task. Even in Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producing country, the lack of data makes one believe that women do not exist.
Experts agree that women are the greatest untapped resource available to avert challenges to the global coffee industry. But the lack of data on women makes it impossible to understand their impact in the value chain. This leads to under-performance in the coffee industry, much like how poor recognition of contributions in any industry can cause lagging productivity.
Two big studies support the long-term health benefits of coffee
It turns out, a cup of coffee can do a lot more than just perk up your morning.
People who drink more coffee may have a lower risk of premature death from disease, according to two new studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The results were consistent among more than 700,000 participants from a variety of racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.
Previous research has suggested that coffee is good for you, but was often limited to smaller groups and people of European decent, writes the Los Angeles Times.
And both studies found benefits for people who drank decaffeinated as well.
Editor’s note: Next month, the global coffee industry will gather in Medellin for the World Coffee Producers Forum to explore how to strengthen farmers, discussing sustainability, labor, managing price volatility, and improving productivity and yields. Here, Frederick Kawuma, Secretary General of the Inter African Coffee Organization (IACO), sets the stage for these discussions by providing an overview from the producers’ perspective.
Coffee farmer Feleke Dukamo checks the latest coffee prices. Source: Wikimedia Commons
By Frederick Kawuma, Secretary General of the Inter African Coffee Organization (IACO)
There has recently been a spate of studies analyzing the income of coffee farmers. The first thing that becomes evident is that the income from coffee farming varies depending on the country, and even the region within the country, where the studies have been done.
The second thing that becomes evident is that the income from coffee farming depends on the price the farmer gets for his coffee, which depends on “the market.”
Gender equity is good for the coffee business.
The Partnership for Gender Equity (PGE) believes that vibrant farming communities are the key to producing better coffee, and more of it. Therefore, they’re working to address this issue through large-scale collaboration, standardized best practices, and stronger data – starting with the report, “The Way Forward: Accelerating Gender Equity in Coffee Value Chains.”
During a recent NCA webinar, “Gender Equity: Strengthening the Links of the Coffee Supply Chain,” industry experts Kimberly Easson, Samantha Veide, and Chad Trewick discussed key findings, required resources, and where the industry can go from here.
Four highlights emerged from the research:
Photo courtesy of Fairtrade International
via Fairtrade America
Around 80% of the world’s coffee is produced by 17.7 million small-scale coffee farmers. And while the coffee industry aims to be a sustainability leader, the fact is that many farmers continue to struggle to make ends meet and support their families.
New research finds that the future of coffee depends on adequate income for farmers. A pilot study by Fairtrade International and True Price shows that despite sustainability pledges in the coffee sector, many coffee farmers struggle to make ends meet.
Key findings from the report include:
A new study shows that drinking four cups of coffee a day may help prevent deadly disease, and may even counter the damage caused by unhealthy diet and lifestyle habits. (One cup of herbal tea also offers the same protection.)
Previous evidence suggested that coffee and tea could have a protective effect on liver tissue, but the results haven’t been conclusive. Now for the first time, scientists have confirmed the potential benefits of these beloved beverages.
“Caffeine improves athletic performance. This is a truth almost universally acknowledged in exercise science.” — Gretchen Reynolds, The New York Times
Drinking caffeinated coffee has been scientifically linked to improved physical performance. And for years, many scientists, coaches, and athletes believed that an athlete had to abstain for days or weeks before an event to gain a boost.
But a new study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that these ideas about caffeine and athletic performance are outdated.
“Coffee can be a wonderful natural medicine.”
People who drink more coffee are “significantly” less likely to develop liver cancer, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ Open. These findings support increasing evidence that coffee may have protective benefits for liver health, and may even counteract damage from alcohol consumption.
Go ahead, have another cup.
An unprecedented scientific review on caffeine safety confirms that drinking up to four cups of coffee daily, or about 400 milligrams of caffeine, is “not associated with overt, adverse effects” in healthy adults. (Pregnant woman and minors should reduce their intake below that amount, according to the report.) 
The review was conducted by the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), and is the most extensive of its kind to date. Scientists scoured data from more than 700 independent studies related to various human health effects and caffeine.
By Hanna Neuschwander, World Coffee Research
Sometimes facts are so obvious they become invisible.
In the case of coffee, one of those facts is this: Coffee comes from a plant. The entire $225 billion dollar coffee industry in the U.S. is built up from the roots of billions of living, breathing coffee plants that spend their days turning sunlight into fruit. Once you stop and think about it, it’s kind of profound. Nearly 1.7 million jobs — including, if you are reading this, probably yours — depend on those plants doing their thing, photosynthesizing, outsmarting diseases and pests, being rained on at the right time in the right amounts.
It’s also profound to think about just how fragile the entire arrangement is. The vast majority of coffee plants in the field today are really, really (really) genetically similar. Most varieties are not resistant to major diseases. Most are way too old (World Coffee Research guesses that about 50% of coffee trees are more than 50 years old). That leaves coffee especially vulnerable — to disease epidemics like the one that devastated Central American production after 2012, to extremes in weather like excessive rain or drought or frost.
When crops are facing challenges like these, it helps to go back to basics: Coffee is a plant. So — what is needed to help the plant thrive? And, thereby, to help the humans who depend on it?