There is no doubt that the coffee industry is growing constantly, but an unsavoury brew of climate change and low prices is putting off the younger generation from coffee farming.
Moreover, the current generation of farmers, with an average age of 60, aren’t encouraging their children to get their hands dirty for this arduous work and low returns.
Indeed, over 70% of children from 20 families in the coffee farming community of São Sebastião do Paraíso, Brazil, that Olam surveyed, said they regarded coffee farming as risky business when it comes to income security.
But 16 year-old Sofia Silva, daughter of coffee farmers Jose Eduardo and Helena, is bucking the stigma. She’s been inspired by what she’s seen on her family farm and is looking forward to returning after graduating from high school, to continue her parent’s work. So what’s motivating her?
“Before I started to be part of the project, I was very distant, had no interest or desire to be present on the farm. But after, I learned the importance of family farming and how it fits into our lives. After Olam’s trainings my parents started to take more care in their actions for coffee production, for instance in cost and quality control. I can see now how its responsible for my family income, and I will need this knowledge too to take their work forward.”
The Silva family are part of a family succession project run by Olam and a coffee customer which, as well as running agricultural programmes for farmers, works with 155 families in the community, to present coffee farming as a more attractive career choice to the younger generation.
From running environment-themed essay or drawing contests in the local schools and regular community meetings, to inviting the older children to observe Saturday morning training sessions on the farms, the younger generation of São Sebastião are getting more curious about coffee’s place in their future.