By Mallory Jensen

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Coffee is the most commonly traded product in the world after oil, but most coffee beans aren’t grown on big plantations. Instead, individual families grow most of the world’s coffee on small plots of land. There are 100 million people worldwide who do this. But although more than 1.4 billion cups of coffee are poured each day, coffee farmers earn very little.

Programs like Fair Trade help coffee growers get better prices for the beans, but not enough to pull them out of poverty. Coffee Kids is a non-profit organization that works with local groups to help coffee farmers in Mexico and Central America improve their lives.

Families learn how to start small, non-coffee businesses so they do not depend so much on one thing. Small loans allow communities to build things like water treatment plants. Savings banks are established so people will have more resources in the future. In Ixcapantla, Mexico, some children have formed their own savings groups in a project partly coordinated by Coffee Kids.

Coffee Kids programs also help farmers’ children go to school instead of picking coffee beans. In Costa Rica, scholarships help rural students study beyond elementary school. Thirteen-year-old Joanna Salas used her first scholarship to buy eyeglasses, and her second will buy school supplies.

“When I was younger, I wanted to be a secretary, but now I want to be an obstetrician and help women and children,” Salas says.

For more information, go to www.coffeekids.org.

COFFEE FACTS!

• The global coffee industry makes $60 billion annually. Coffee farmers earn as little as 4 cents a pound for the coffee they pick by hand.

• 25 million families around the world work in the coffee fields and depend on the coffee crop as their only source of income.

• One coffee tree yields slightly less than one pound of coffee per year.

• For every pound of gourmet coffee sold, smaller coffee farmers receive between 12 and 25 cents.