food / travel

Dutch And Colombians Brew Up Green Coffee Cooperation

The Netherlands, a major consumer of sustainable coffee, is helping to make production in Colombia more environmentally friendly for the benefit of grower and drinker alike.

Colombian coffee farmer
Colombian coffee farmer
María Paulina Baena Jaramillo

BOGOTA â€" Since 2012, the Sustainable Trade Platform (STP) has aimed to make Colombia's production of coffee, flowers, palm oil and bananas more environmentally and economically sustainable. It's an ambitious task to help change long-established farming practices, production methods and consumption habits.

But what makes it particularly interesting is the consciously bilateral nature of the program between players in both the producer and consumer nations: the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Bogota and the local NGO Solidaridad.

In the northern Colombian department of Antioquia, the program is retraining 11,000 coffee farmers in and around the district of Salgar, with 2,800 of them already integrating sustainable practices in their production.

Coffee technician and Salgar resident León Jaime Restrepo says STP has worked with farmers to improve the quality of the coffee bean crop. "That's what sustainability is," he says. "It's a matter of necessity for the Colombian coffee farmer who sees how coffees are not just conventional anymore, but moving onto new levels. Sustainability is measured with environmental components like reduced use of chemicals, reduced water pollution and the defense of natural resources."

To specify who and what is considered sustainable, Restrepo says that "those not in the sustainability program use chemical pesticides, throw coffee pulp into the river, have no treatment of waste waters and employ minors instead of supporting their education."

Restrepo also says sustainable coffee farmers will let the coffee grain mature longer, making it sweeter, weightier and more valuable.

STP is the first public-private alliance in Colombia trying to boost sustainability in the production, trading and consumption of the country's four most important farming sectors: bananas, coffee, flowers and palm oil. It's currently active in 13 of the country's 32 departments.

The initiative is managed by Solidaridad, an international NGO with 10 regional centers and 20 offices around the world. The idea is to create sustainable supply chains from producer to consumer. Sustainable practices first began to be recognized in the 1970s, and their criteria began to be specified after the 1992 Rio summit.

"Sustainability programs had to be articulated toward the market, and the market had to make an ethical commitment to go in that direction," says Carlos Isaza, who manages the coffee sector for Solidaridad Colombia.

Get the seal

The European Union and the Netherlands in particular see Colombia as an important partner and supplier of food products. And supermarket shelves (especially in Finland and the Netherlands, the top consumers of sustainable coffee) display not just coffee but also bananas, palm oil and flowers.

Who's the fairest coffee in Amsterdam? Photo: Amfrank

Colombia is one of the five principal exporters of farming products, and therefore crucially important to the spread of sustainable agriculture practices. The country is the world's No. 2 exporter of flowers, third in coffee, and fourth for bananas and palm oil. These sectors assure the livelihoods of more than 3.5 million people in Colombia.

STP is bringing together producers, buyers, government and aid organizations. The dialogues it promotes are to define actions and strategies so that these four products can be positioned and sold in world markets with the certified sustainability seal. Some 90 entities are collaborating actively with the organization.

"Sustainable products have been viewed as a luxury for a market niche," says Koen Sizoo, economic affairs chief at the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Bogota. "Yet more and more companies are seeing the need to invest in the sustainable production of raw materials in order to meet the requirement of mass customers like supermarkets and the food industry."

With that in mind, there are three principal objectives to help local producers: spreading knowledge about good practices and techniques, helping them access international markets and certifications, and understanding how to react to global warming. "The aim is to transform sustainability in a competitive advantage for buyers and producers," Sizoo says. "Today we are focusing on transition from the classical model of cooperation for development to a relationship as equals between the Netherlands and Colombia."

The first signs of real change have already been registered. In 2010, 40% of the coffee the Netherlands consumed was certified as sustainable. Today six million of the 12 million sacks of coffee produced in Colombia are sustainable. The goal for 2015 is even more ambitious: to have 75% of Dutch consumers sipping certified sustainable coffee.

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.

[*Italian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

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📣 VERBATIM

"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."

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Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com!

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