Coffee is one of the most traded commodities in the world, second only to oil. Despite the international demand for coffee, coffee farmers are often paid below their cost of production. They often lack access to markets willing to buy their high-quality coffee and pay what it’s worth– making the source of their livelihood less than profitable.
Laos is a coffee growing country that is especially overlooked internationally– making opening new markets for coffee farmers in Laos particularly important. We are a Canadian coffee roaster that is a proud pioneer in sourcing from Laos, with the help of our partners, Fi-lan’thro-pe.
We are proud to partner with Fi-lan’thro-pe, a non-profit charity, to source coffee from Laos. Fi-lan’thro-pe works directly with Indigenous, tribal coffee farmers and their communities within India, Indonesia, Laos, and Vietnam. Their mission is to work towards fair pay for coffee farmers on a global scale and break the shackles that keep Indigenous and tribal coffee farmers from realizing their full potential.
Fi-lan’thro-pe’s focus is on goals of empowerment, community development, financial freedom, and critical livelihood improvement. Much like us, they are consciously working to make an impact in the lives of smallholder coffee farmers, rather than being primarily profit-driven.
Through the power of consumers’ desire for coffee consumption, they are able to empower Indigenous ethnic minority communities with self-determined community development.
In the Southern regions of Laos, there is lush vegetation all year round and waterfalls in the lowlands.
Laos’ rich volcanic soil and high altitudes is the reason their region is ideal for coffee production. 250 villages in Laos, consisting of 20,000 coffee growing communities, rely on coffee farming as their only source of income.
High-quality coffee beans come from Laos, but sadly the coffee rarely makes it out of the country for coffee lovers to enjoy around the world. Year after year, these coffee farmers struggle to make a living wage; lacking access to markets willing to buy their high-quality coffee and pay what it’s worth.
The Cost of the “Green Revolution”
The majority of the coffee in Laos was planted in the wake of the green revolution. As a result, many coffee farmers have become reliant on environmentally and economically costly inputs such as pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and practises like monocropping. Part of Fi-lan’thro-pe’s focus is empowering coffee farmers in Laos to reestablish their roots to sustainable agriculture and reconnect with the land– something that is sacred to many communities in Laos who have had an intimate connection with the soil for generations.
Additionally, communities in Laos experience public health challenges that have an immense impact on their livelihood. Unsafe drinking water causes 40% of children under the age of five to suffer from illnesses. Additionally, more than 25% of children die at birth due to the lack of maternity services available.
To Fi-lan’thro-pe, coffee is a powerful tool that can be leveraged to build the communities that grow it. Everyday billions of people are connected through coffee– the same coffee that smallholder coffee farming families and communities rely on for their daily livelihood.
Fi-lan’thro-pe has been making waves and fighting to better the livelihood for the communities in Laos.
Building a community owned and operated, organic seedling nursery;
Establishing and constructing a coffee micro-mill;
Building clean water wells for 9 villages;
Providing clean, smokeless, cook-stoves for villages;
Innovating coffee-pulp-to-animal-feed technology for all villages;
Building zero-waste, LEISA, village-level, animal raising facilities;
Securing access to healthcare for families with a special focus on child nutrition and optometry; and,
Assisting with coffee quality training for communities.
Last year, 19 villages received quality training and samples of their coffee were shipped to global markets. Buyers responded and the coffee farmers were paid the highest prices they had ever received for their coffee– as much a 104% more than previously.
Why They are Important to Us
Fi-lan’thro-pe has been our partner for three years. We are passionate about this partnership and continue to build and foster deeper relationships. Each cup of our coffee takes important steps towards the independence and freedom of smallholder coffee farmers and our partners in Laos are an important part of that impact. Through this partnership we have been able to introduce you to Laos and the amazing high-quality coffee that they produce, all while working with Fi-lan’thro-pe and opening new markets for coffee farmers in Laos.
Have you tried coffee from Laos before? Want to make an impact by simply drinking coffee and support our partners in Laos? Join our Road to 1006 online coffee subscription, choose your desired coffee delivery frequency, and select "Laos".
Author Natasha Layton