The agenda of small-scale farmers and workers makes headway in the new International Coffee Agreement (ICA) which came to successful conclusion last week as members of the International Coffee Organization (ICO) concluded a year and a half of negotiations. The ICA serves as the operating charter of the ICO, the only forum that brings the majority of coffee producing and consuming countries together to address critical issues facing the coffee sector. For years campaigns such as Oxfam’s coffee campaign have identified the ICO as an important venue for strengthening small farmers’ interests. The new ICA reflects such advocacy work and puts many important issues on the ICO's agenda for the coming years.
The following points, included in the new version of the ICA, are victories for small-scale farmers and work across the world:
* Recognition of the relationship between a sustainable coffee market and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals;
* Objectives to develop a sustainable coffee sector in economic, social and environmental terms and enhance the capacity of local communities and small-scale farmers to benefit from coffee production;
* Acknowledgement of the importance of establishing and strengthening cooperation with NGOs;
* A new article on the ICA's project work, which has included efforts to improve farmers' productivity and sustainability;
* Creation of a new 'Consultative Forum on Coffee Sector Finance' which will bring together experts to discuss finance and risk management with a emphasis on the needs of small and medium scale producers and local communities; and
* Expansion of the ICO's role in disseminating information about the coffee supply chain with emphasis on facilitating access to information by small coffee producers to assist them in improving their financial performance.
While the new ICA adds important elements to the ICO's mandate, the Agreement itself expresses intention. The true value of the new Agreement will be as good as the implementation, which means that while NGOs welcome this development they will continue to push ICO member countries to follow through on the promises made to small farmers and farm workers. In particular, Oxfam continues to call on ICO members to create forums for small-scale farmer organizations to have direct channels to voice the challenges they face as farmers struggle to earn a decent living from their coffee crop.