Category Archives: Sustainability

Smart Coffee Growing in Kenya

Our trainees spend a lot of time visiting the people who grow and supply our coffee and tea. We asked Becky, who’s travelling alongside fellow trainee Jamie, to write about some of her experiences. Here’s her first report.

Pictured on the right are coffee grower and retired maths teacher, Geoffrey Mwai Mbogu, and agronomist James Mugi.

“As part of my training in Taylors’ sourcing department, I recently set out on a trip to meet some of the suppliers who grow and produce the fantastic quality tea and coffee that is so important to us at Taylors. This week I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of the Kenyan farmers who grow the bright citric coffee which is such an important part of some of our blends.

“One farmer I was really excited to meet was Geoffrey Mwai Mbogu, who grows coffee in Kirinyaga County in Central Kenya, and is a member of Mutira Co-operative. Geoffrey is a retired maths teacher who started growing coffee 11 years ago in order to help fund the education of his children, one of whom is now training to be a doctor. He owns 500 coffee trees, but also grows papayas, peppers and pineapples, as well as owning a cow and some chickens.

“What particularly impressed me about Geoffrey was his passion and commitment to growing the best possible quality coffee on his farm. As part of Mutira Co-operative he’s been working with James Mugi, the Cooperative’s agronomist and trainer, to introduce practices on his farm which will care for the environment while at the same time ensuring his coffee tastes even more delicious. This has included regular pruning of his coffee trees, planting shade trees so the coffee isn’t grown in full sun, and applying fertiliser at the optimum time of the year.

“Since working with James, Geoffrey has seen the quality of his coffee cherries rise dramatically, which at the same time has led to higher income, helping Geoffrey continue to support his family.

“It was very inspiring for me to meet farmers like Geoffrey across our supply chain in Kenya, and to see the work and commitment they put into growing such fantastic quality coffee for our blends.”

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Setting Standards

We put a lot of stock in acting responsibly.

Companies – especially those which trade internationally – have an environmental and ethical impact, whether they like it or not. So we have always tried to make sure that the impact we have is a positive one.

The reason we mention it is that we’ve just been named a ‘Sustainable Standard Setter’ by the Rainforest Alliance, for our commitment to being a globally responsible business.

For over 20 years The Rainforest Alliance has awarded those who they feel ‘champion sustainability efforts, protect the environment and support local communities worldwide’.

We’ve worked closely with the Rainforest Alliance for over five years now. The partnership has led to lots of positive changes in our supply chain, and it helps us to ensure a sustainable supply of the high quality coffee we need for the future. And thanks largely to our work with the Rainforest Alliance on the ground, all of our coffee is now independently certified.

Our sustainability manager, Simon Hotchkin, had this to say: “We are thrilled to have been recognised by the Rainforest Alliance as Sustainable Standard Setters.”

“It feels great to have been awarded for all the hard work that we have put into 100% certification and for our Planet Agenda projects that go above and beyond certification. Some of our most significant achievements have been accomplished in partnership with the Rainforest Alliance.”

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Beehives and rainwater

It’s time to share some more Taylors Grant Scheme updates – you can find out more about the scheme here.

Ipanema Coffee Farm, Brazil

Ipanema Coffee Farm, Brazil - eyes on animals

What has been achieved?
The event goal is to diversify and to expand activities in environmental education. Ipanema Coffees along with Ipanema Institute has been developing a project for the past three years to stimulate the curiosity and to create closer relationships between the residents, employees and the local fauna. The project has been ongoing for the last 3 years and has been going from strength to strength. The children will be continually educated about the animals that can be found in their local area with other events planned.

How much did we donate?

Who has benefited?
200 children across five public schools benefited from the project. This year, the children attended an event at the Ipanema Institute where an exhibition of all the materials that they had prepared was showcased. During the event there was competition to select the two best essays, with the winners receiving a kit with educational materials.

Ngere Tea Factory, Kenya

Kenya - Ngere water tanks 1

What has been achieved?
In partnership with the KTDA Foundation, we have provided six plastic water tanks for rainwater harvesting at six primary schools close to Ngere Tea Factory. In the Ngere area, schools have often had to make do with an unpredictable and scarce water supply which has posed health risks to school children who need adequate water for drinking and hygiene purposes. At the end of July this year the six tanks were installed. This project has supplied a means of providing a reliable and clean source of water to six schools. Jaki Mathaga, Manager of the KTDA Foundation, said: “The handing over of the water tanks to schools in Ngere was especially exciting as there were kids involved. You cannot imagine how good it feels to have clean water and from nearby.”

How much did we donate?
Over £1,900, which was match funded by the KTDA Foundation.

Who has benefited?
The water tanks will not only benefit students at all six schools immediately, but will provide safe and clean water for the schools for many years to come.

Gisovu Tea Factory, Rwanda

Rwanda - Gisovu honey 1

What has been achieved?
Gisovu have set up a honey project to provide employment for local people. The project aimed to take advantage of the excellent local flora around Gisovu, which provides the ideal conditions for honey production. The project has drawn on the expertise of Rwanda Honey Ltd, who have confirmed that the area has the potential to product the best honey in Rwanda. With the help of the grant from Taylors, and a match funded investment from Gisovu, the project enabled Gisovu to purchase 30 bee hives and the suits and equipment needed to manage them. The grant also funded five days of training from two qualified bee keepers on site, training workers and smallholders in bee keeping skills and management. So far, land has been prepared at Gisovu and the hives themselves were put in place in July 2014.

How much did we donate?
£2,000.  From here, the aim is for the project to become self funding through sales of honey.

Who has benefited?
Not only has the project developed a business which will generate local employment for local people, but following the introduction of the hives Gisovu aim to train local people in bee keeping and honey collection and production techniques, encouraging small tea smallholders to begin to produce their own honey, generating their own source of additional income.

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Why the Rainforest Alliance matters to us

We embarked upon a huge project in Rwanda with FRICH and the Rainforest Alliance.

It’s the launch of Follow the Frog – the Rainforest Alliance’s annual celebration of certification and everything that entails.

All of our coffees are independently certified, and the vast majority come from farms certified by the Rainforest Alliance.

So we thought we should take a look at what RA certification means to us.

Our trainee commodities buyers Becky Mundy says: “Conducting business fairly in a way that has a positive effect on the world is at the heart of all our relationships with our tea and coffee suppliers, but isn’t something we can do on our own.

“Building a strong partnership with Rainforest Alliance has helped us to make a real difference on the ground quickly and effectively, working with our suppliers both to conserve biodiversity and to improve the livelihoods of the farmers we work with.

“Not only does this help us to fulfil our commitment to trading fairly and respectfully, it also enables us to ensure we maintain the highest standards of fantastic quality tea and coffee.”

At Taylors, we rely on our suppliers to grow consistently great quality coffee, so we work extremely hard to build long-lasting relationships with them, investing in their communities and their environment to help ensure both are thriving and resilient.

We pay fair, sustainable prices and a premium for quality and our buyers regularly visit the farms and co-operatives we buy from.

Certifications have a huge impact on improving social and environmental standards – so we’ve helped existing suppliers who weren’t Rainforest Alliance certified to work towards it, helping to reduce the environmental impact of each farm – from introducing natural water filtration schemes to improving worker safety, increasing pay and preventing soil erosion through better farming techniques.

Our belief in ethical, sustainable trade goes even further. Since 2009, we have been working alongside the Rainforest Alliance with FRICH, a UK Government Challenge Fund which works to improve the lives of smallholder farmers in Africa.

Furthermore, our own grant scheme invites suppliers to apply for match funding towards projects which will benefit their communities – from classrooms and crèches to recycling and clean drinking water.

It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s something we’re really proud of. And we think it makes the coffee taste better.

You can find out more about the Rainforest Alliance here.

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Where did the tokens go?

Rainforest Tokens

Ever noticed those tokens on our packs?

If you’ve been buying Taylors coffee for the last few years, you might have spotted our Yorkshire Rainforest Project tokens. For every one a customer cut out and sent back to us, we made a donation.

It’s a huge project with the aim of helping to protect an area of tropical forest the size of Yorkshire – that’s about 1.5 million hectares.

But we figured it was time to change the system. We’ve realised that it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to ask people to cut out parts of the pack and post them in.

So we’ve ditched the tokens. But we certainly haven’t ditched the cause. In fact, not having to process all those fiddly little squares of packaging should mean we can donate more than ever.

It’s another step closer to the goal of our Yorkshire Rainforest Project – a project we’re in for the long haul.

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Climate-smart coffee farming

On the slopes of Uganda’s Mount Elgon, rising temperatures and poor farming practices mean smallholder coffee farmers aren’t growing as much as they could.

In fact, we think that even from the best farms we’ve seen, just a few positive changes could double the yield.

We’re talking sustainable changes like organic compost, spacing the trees out, pruning, recycling plastic and growing shade trees.

These can have a huge impact – meaning more coffee to sell, and better incomes for growers.

We’ve made a film about it here. And you can find out much more about our work in Uganda and Rwanda here and here.

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“I can take my children to a better school”

We’re working with the Rainforest Alliance and FRICH (a UK Government fund supporting African farmers) in Rwanda and Uganda – and in this series of posts, we’re profiling some of the people we’ve been meeting along the way.

This is Beatrice. As well as tending to her coffee smallholding, Beatrice and her husband look after ten children (including a grandchild) and her livelihood in coffee provides for their food and their education. Beatrice has already made great strides with her farming techniques under Rainforest Alliance certification and is now learning how to farm to adapt to climate change.

“Before I was under the Rainforest Alliance programme my farm was not so productive – I have joined the group, I’ve been taught and now I am getting a good yield.

“I used to take my children to rural schools where the level of education is not very good. Now I can take my children to a better school so at least they can get a good education. I’m also able to buy and store food – I used to have difficulties in paying for food – now I can buy maize, which I can store and use as food for my children.”

Beatrice worries about climate change and the effect that it could have on her coffee and on her food production:

“It is true that there is a change in climate in our country. Even last year in 2012, there was too much sunshine and it affected the way the coffee flowered – the sunshine continued for a longer period and all the flowers dropped and even the berries were very few. So we had a very poor harvest last year because of long draught.”

Beatrice is excited about the climate smart training she is receiving and is quick to put her learning into practice – she is already separating her waste, making sure she doesn’t burn plastics and is shading her compost.

Now she is giving advice to her neighbours who are full of admiration for her successful and rather beautiful smallholding.

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“Now I get four kilos per tree… or five”

We’re working with the Rainforest Alliance and FRICH (a UK Government fund supporting African farmers) in Rwanda and Uganda – and in this series of posts, we’re profiling some of the people we’ve been meeting along the way.

Mamadi has been a coffee farmer for most of his life and has seen many changes over the years – both in the coffee industry and in the weather that is so crucial to his livelihood. The rains and dry periods have become increasingly unpredictable and coffee farmers have contended with long periods of drought.

Now he is being trained to adapt his farming to climate change – not only to help him cope with the changes in the weather, but also to mitigate the effect that his farming has on the climate.

Mamadi is keen for as many farmers as possible to be trained in climate smart farming techniques and that’s one reason why he hosts training sessions at his own coffee smallholding. He shows fellow farmers how good practices can help to adapt to climate change and can also increase the yield and quality of coffee that they grow.

“After training and transferring the knowledge into my garden every year I am increasing my coffee production,” he says.

“I am also improving the amount of coffee I get from each tree – now I can get four kilos per tree…or five.

“I think I have benefited from the training and the more money I get means the more work I can do. The training and the increasing of my coffee production has made me see better things for my family.”

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“I have started planting trees now…”

We’re working with the Rainforest Alliance and FRICH (a UK Government fund supporting African farmers) in Rwanda and Uganda – and in this series of posts, we’re profiling some of the people we’ve been meeting along the way.

This is Felica – she has six children and owns 159 coffee trees. Felica may be working alone since she lost her husband to the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 but her hard work and her good standing in the community have given her the opportunity to become a lead farmer.

This means that she trains her co-farmers in Rainforest Alliance techniques that will help them all to work more sustainably and produce even better coffee in the process.

“I am happy and so proud to be a lead farmer – I do my best to do it properly. To be a lead farmer one has to be honest and well considered in the community, fulfil responsibilities and provide good communication.

“The most interesting part of the Rainforest Alliance scheme is conservation and tree planting – because trees provide shade and I know shade enhances the coffee beans. Trees can also help to hold soil and tree leaves make mulch. I have started planting trees now.

“I feel that I will become more successful from the scheme as my yields will increase as will my quality.

“To know that Rwandan coffee is so well appreciated is good news for me and I feel a responsibility to keep up the good work and improve more.”

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Coffee’s role in redeveloping Rwanda

We’re working with the Rainforest Alliance and FRICH (a UK Government fund supporting African farmers) in Rwanda and Uganda – and in this series of posts, we’re profiling some of the people we’ve been meeting along the way.

This is Gilbert. He manages KZ Noir – one of the coffee suppliers we are working with in Rwanda on Rainforest Alliance certification so that we can purchase their coffee.

Gilbert is originally Rwandan but, born a refugee in Kenya and raised in Canada, he never had the opportunity to discover his home country until later in life. Through a background and training in International Development and Business, Gilbert felt that he may have something to offer a country that was going through its own redevelopment after the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.

“But more than that,” he says. “I felt like Rwanda had a lot to offer me.”

“If you look at Rwanda today, what it’s managed to achieve in such a short time, there’s just so much energy and just so much zeal in wanting to make things better. To be a part of that and see that happening… to actually see the transformation is riveting.

“It gets you excited and pumped and full of energy to want to continue because you actually see the transformation happening… but more than that, you can be a part of that transformation.”

Now Gilbert feels that he can be a part of this redevelopment through coffee and his passion for the great coffee has grown as he sees the impact that is has on people behind the beans.

“There’s so much about coffee that is great…that has me very interested in it. A big component for me is the people. As you can see, starting from cherry picking all the way to green hand sorting, for me, coffee is almost like a commodity of people.

“There are hands touching that coffee at every single stage and when you’re drinking that cup of coffee and you understand all the processes that have gone into it, it’s almost like you’re tasting so many different people of different living standards that have all gone into creating this one cup of coffee that you’re enjoying.

“Beyond that, not only the individuals but more so the impact it has on people’s lives. If a farmer is able to grow coffee, harvest coffee, and make a living out of coffee, it’s very important for me and if I can be a part of that chain at any level, then I feel like I’ve contributed towards developing myself but also contributing to developing other people’s lives.”

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