The Java-inspired Fairtrade movement is finally coming back to its roots

The Java-inspired Fairtrade movement is finally coming back to its roots

Written by Zaza Fetriza

Mita, Yani and Yuli, women coffee farmers from Java. Credit: Erica Knecht 

For coffee lovers world-wide, the word "Java" is synonymous with coffee.

The Indonesian island was also the inspiration for the Fairtrade movement, and yet, the certification program has yet to reach its coffee growers.

But that is about to change.

Java Mountain Coffee is an indigenous social enterprise seeking to disrupt a 300 year-old coffee supply chain model established by men for men, under Dutch colonial rule.

The old model has only delivered inequality to farmers - women and men - the depletion of natural resources and the environment.

Java Mountain Coffee believes a collaborative approach with all partners can repair the damage caused by the old supply chain.

It’s using relationships with like-minded consumers, retailers, corporations, food service companies, universities, schools, importers and supplier partners in the international marketplace to bring better outcomes for people and the environment.


How Java Mountain Coffee is shaking things up

Java Mountain Coffee sells both farm fresh, quality micro roasted coffee and green coffee to retailers, supermarkets, hotels, cafes, importers and distributors locally and overseas.

It's using twenty first century technology in communications, machinery at origin, logistic solutions and innovative packaging to help break through the outdated supply chain model.

At the heart of the initiative is the Sustainable Program, which receives 10 percent of all sales and is invested into two parts.

The first will pay for women coffee farmers and workers to join a collaborative certification program of Fairtrade, RainForest Alliance, UTZ certified, an organic certification and Carbon Credit Certified.

The second part will fund a nursery program whereby women receive new hybrid coffee trees and shade trees such as citrus, banana, timber and rubber - all sources of secondary income.

This is done in partnership with the Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute, monitored by the United Nations FAO.

The Sustainable Program aims to empower women through training and capacity building from these proven certification programs.

Incomes will increase as farm yields improve from this training and from new trees that are more resilient to climatic changes.

Rural women in Java and Kintamani Bali now receive only $1.75 per day for their work.

Women hand picking the new coffee harvest. Credit: Mahwari Sadewa Jalutama

The Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute is preparing coffee and shade tree seedlings for the program in West Java and Kintamani, Bali. Credit: Mahwari Sadewa Jalutama

The history of hardship for Java's coffee growers

To many Western consumers, the word Java is synonymous with coffee.

This goes back to when the Dutch government-owned trading company, the VOC, controlled much of the global supply in coffee and the majority of this came from Java.

One significant individual who stood up for Javanese coffee farmers during the period of colonial rule (which ended in 1949) was Dutch writer Eduard Douwes Dekker.

Douwes Dekker witnessed the hardships workers endured, including starvation, rape and slavery.

He lobbied his government and exposed the facts from Java to the general public back in Holland and eventually Europe through the novel Max Havelaar, which he wrote under the name Multatuli.

In 1988 the Max Havelaar Foundation and Max Havelaar trademark was founded in Holland on the principles of Douwes Dekker's work.

During the 1990s the movement continued to grow around the world, and in 2002 the international Fairtrade mark was launched.

Indonesia’s government has honored his advocacy by historically listing Douwes Dekker's home and office, which is one hour by train from the capital, Jakarta.

Today there are 1,210 Fairtrade certified producer organizations in 74 producing countries, representing more than 1.5 million farmers and workers.

But sadly, the Fairtrade program for coffee farmers has not yet arrived in Java.

Participation of women in the Fairtrade program worldwide is only 25% and this figure is less with RainForest Alliance and UTZ certification programs.

Eduard Douwes Dekker's works were the foundation of the Fairtrade movement. Credit: Max Havelaar Foundation.

What are today’s challenges?

Last year’s El Nino weather conditions during caused record drought in Java.

Declining yields from climate change and farmers' limited capacity has affected household incomes.

Communities are also battling coffee rust, a fungus that decreases the quantity and quality of coffee harvest and is seriously threatening supply security.

It's not the first time this disease has hit Java’s farmers. During the early 1900s coffee rust was widespread, which led the Dutch government burning and ripping out coffee crops.

Despite these challenges, Java Mountain Coffee is forging ahead.

During the UN COP21 talks in Paris last year, it became the first indigenous social enterprise to join Conservation International's Sustainable Coffee Challenge.

According to Conservation International, only 12 percent of the world's coffee is sustainably sourced.

As the first organization for indigenous women to become a signatory to the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, Java Mountain Coffee made a bold statement:

"Historical data shows us that men have established and controlled the world's food supply chains which unfortunately has led to dissipating resources and environmental degradation.

"We see the Sustainable Coffee Challenge as an opportunity to bring women’s voices to help address sustainability and hope to see equal representation by other women in the industry.

"We call on participants to focus and invest in rural women whom do the majority of the work at the bottom of global coffee supply chains in developing nations.

"To empower women by allowing them reach their full potential will lead to greater equality, a healthier planet and food security for all."

Mt Bromo, East Java. Credit: Mahwari Sadewa Jalutama 

A view of Central Java's Mountains from the Borobudur Temple. Credit: Mahwari Sadewa Jalutama 

Working for a fairer future

On March 8 2015, International Women's Day, Java Mountain Coffee joined four global women's empowerment initiatives - the UN Women's Empowerment Principles, UN Global Compact, WE Connect International and Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In.

The idea is to reach out and connect to CEOs of companies that have pledged their commitment to the empowerment of women within their own businesses and supply chains.

In July a certified composite coffee capsule range will launch in partnership with an Italian partner, offering future partners at home and globally a way to reduce landfill impact.

The collaborative certification program will begin in the coming months, and from 2017 partners will be encouraged to visit the Sustainable Program, in both Java and Kintamani, Bali, the second place of origin for the Mocha Java Blend. 

Java Mountain Coffee hopes to challenge habits from the past, but at the same time believes in drawing on its history for important perspectives and lessons.

The hope is for all partners to learn, collaborate, and move together towards a fairer, sustainable coffee future.

Article written by: Zaza Fetriza

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