Coffee Kids: Helping Families of Poor Producers

By Scholer, Morten | International Trade Forum, April 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Coffee Kids: Helping Families of Poor Producers


Scholer, Morten, International Trade Forum


Coffee Kids gives coffee-growing communities a hand up not a handout.

Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) work in the coffee sector. Some offer funds or sponsorship. Others implement programmes in the field. Some work only in the coffee sector, others don't.

Coffee Kids, an NGO from a coffee-importing country, works to improve the quality of life for children and families in coffee-growing communities.

In Guatemala, Bill Fishbein, a specialty coffee roaster and retailer in the United States, saw the connection between coffee farming and poverty. He created Coffee Kids in 1988 so that coffee businesses and consumers could give something back to the growers.

Coffee Kids operates mainly in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua. It works with local NGOs and other groups, such as a women's health collective and democratically-run regional coffee cooperatives.

Coffee Kids' annual budget is around $700,000. The funds are raised mainly from businesses (coffee shops, roasters, etc.). In-kind goods and services, individual coffee drinkers, coin-drop collections, foundation grants and other sources make up the rest.

Helping women

Coffee Kids' largest programme provides microcredit to women, helping to build economic stability and promote diversification. It helps establish microcredit groups that encourage saving and provide access to small, low-interest loans to start or expand small businesses.

The women's businesses include a general store, a mid-wife's clinic and a pharmacy, a beauty salon, a food stand and a pig-raising business. The women also receive training in accounting and business management.

The groups use some of the interest on loans to cover their expenses and channel the rest into a collective savings fund.

As each community bank's savings fund grows, the group borrows less money from Coffee Kids and more from itself. Eventually, the community bank becomes an official, independent credit cooperative and the capital is recycled into starting a new group.

Education and health

Another programme gives scholarships to students and grants to primary schools in rural, coffee-growing communities. …

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