Rainforest Alliance Certification
Since the introduction of coffee farming, farmers have learned and adapted in ingenious ways. Sometimes these changes benefit their yields or coffee quality, but sometimes changes can have detrimental side effects. The practice of clearing forest trees to plant more coffee trees takes place all over the world, which is a big reason the Rainforest Alliance is working with farmers to promote more sustainable farming and better farm management to keep the land viable and fertile while reaching higher yields and better quality coffee. Here, we will break down who the Rainforest Alliance is, how a farm can become certified, and how certification benefits farmers who use these practices.
About the Rainforest Alliance
The Rainforest Alliance was established in 1987 and added coffee to its portfolio of certified goods in 1995. The organization focuses on a holistic farm management system that addresses environmental, social and economic aspects on farms. The main products they work with are coffee, tea, cocoa, bananas, and palm oil. As of last year, 5.6% of global coffee production was Rainforest Alliance Certified, reaching 630 certified holders in 25 different origin countries.
The Need for Rainforest Alliance
Like with many other crops, coffee farmers are focused on yields and how to make their business successful. Unfortunately in the coffee industry, this results in many farms trading trees for more land to grow coffee. Not only is this practice bad for trees, it affects animals and the environment around them. Through Rainforest Alliance Certification, farmers learn the benefits of preserving the land using more sustainable farming methods. Most farmers, when given the choice, would prefer not to cut down the trees on their land, but when they think this is the only way to produce more coffee and earn a living wage, they do what is necessary. By working with the Rainforest Alliance, farmers quickly learn that there is a much better way to increase yields that allows them to keep trees and incorporate new practices that benefit everyone.
To become Rainforest Alliance Certified, there is an audit process with 119 total criteria that farms are graded on. Of these criteria, there are 37 “critical criteria” that farms must score 100% on to become certified. The critical criteria include things like no forced or child labor, no mistreatment of workers, protect and conserve trees & native vegetation, and no negative effects on protected areas. Once a farm passes the audit, they receive their certification and are able to sell coffee with the Rainforest Alliance seal.
Once farms are certified, they continue to go through annual audits. However, unlike some other certifications, with each progressive year a farm is certified, the Rainforest Alliance continues to add criteria to each farms audit and works with them to improve their farms. They work in 4 areas: effective planning and management system, biodiversity conservation, natural resource conservation, and improved livelihoods/ human wellbeing. As years pass, farms make additional improvements to reduce water and wind erosion, minimize herbicide use, and practice crop rotation to help enhance the soil health.
Benefits of Being Rainforest Alliance Certified
In addition to the premium and new markets farmers have access to once they are certified, they improve the quality of their land. This results in higher yields and better farm management, making them more efficient and profitable. According to the Rainforest Alliance, even if a farm lets their certification lapse, they usually continue on with the Rainforest Alliance practices because they see the benefit to the land, their yields, and their business.
One of Our Rainforest Alliance Certified Farms
El Jaguar is located in the mountains of Jinotega, Nicaragua. Family run for over 50 years, owners Georges and Lili Duriaux-Chavarría have been committed to organic and sustainable farming since the farm was passed down to them by Lili’s father. El Jaguar gained their Rainforest Alliance certification in 2007 and we have sourced coffee from them since 2001. For almost 20 years, we have worked closely with El Jaguar as they continue to improve the quality of their coffee.
It’s so rewarding to see partners like El Jaguar work towards improving the quality and taste of their coffee while ensuring the land around them is taken care of and can continue to flourish.
In 2002, part of their land was classified as an “Important Bird Area” and is now protected land. They have more than 200 species of trees, more than 100 mammals, and 268 species of birds.
The mindset of Georges and Lili to take care of their land is what gained them both the certification as well as the protected land that serves as a bird sanctuary.
Think about what this land would look like if they swapped out the forests for more space to grow coffee. And because they didn’t, their farm is still incredibly successful, more than it would be if they cut down their trees.
The mission and work that the Rainforest Alliance is doing not only helps our coffee ecosystems, but it also helps the farmers. We love to see farms adopt better management and efficiencies through this certification because the results are so impactful. When we source Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, we know that both the environment and the farmers are benefitting and that’s a big win-win for us. If you want to start drinking Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, our Rainforest Blend, Organic Italian Roast, and Organic Continental Blend are all delicious. Give them a try!