USAID supported more than 200 small rural farmers in organic coffee certification
By Laura McCarthy for USAID
Small rural farmers in the Dominican Republic are beginning to smell the profitable aroma of organic coffee as they find their way into this niche market. Organic coffee returns higher profits for small farmers as international demand soars. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic coffee sales in the United States grew 24 percent from 2005-2006. The farmers meeting this demand have the potential to reap great rewards.
USAID under its Rural Economic Diversification project (2008-2013) trained more than 200 small rural farmers on how to become organically certified through better management practices of their coffee farms and prepare for the external inspection process. USAID also assisted the growers in the development of an internal control system (ICS). The ICS allowed a group of coffee growers to apply for a collective organic certification as they rely on their own internal inspection and compliance system. Such measures reduced the cost of certification as the cost was shared among the farmers.
USAID partnered with an external auditor who worked with the growers to meet certification, notify them when they may not be meeting requirements and then allow them time to comply. The benefits for these small farmers were great.
In 2007, the premium price for organic coffee in the European market was around US$1.00 per kilogram. With the average farmer currently producing 1,536 kg per farm, each farmer increased their annual profit by approximately $1,500.
Working with established coffee association groups, the project linked growers with their respective markets. Once the growers attained organic certification, the project helped the farmers to obtain Fair Trade certification, making way for even larger profits on the farmers’ investments.