Wednesday, January 22, 2014

7. How Artisan Got Involved in Counter Culture's Research Project

Jan. 22, 2014

I was honored to be allowed to work with Counter CultureCoffee (CCC) to analyze the data in their study, "Impact of Microlot Premiums on Smallholder Coffee Producers in Southern Colombia: How Premiums Are Invested and Farming Practices Employed." As a coffee importer ( and a master’s student studying sustainable development for coffee communities (, studying the impact of any program designed to benefit coffee producers would be of interest. This one was extra tantalizing for a few reasons:

1. I had not yet seen any research on the impact of microlot premiums using parametric (i.e. numerical) data, so this seemed to be ground-breaking. 

2. I myself was very curious to see some rigorous analysis of the assumption that “paying more helps the producers.” When Kim Elena Ionescu lead the roundtable discussion at the Roasters Guild Retreat in August 2013 on “microlot myths”, it was frustrating to me that research results in that workshop were so vague compared to the next workshop. In the following workshop, SCAA’s “coffee scientist” spent two hours walking us through her randomly controlled trial experiments to test the effects of roast degree on coffee taste. My interest was to see impacts on producers investigated with the same care and validity, and here was an opportunity to be part of helping that happen. 

3. The research combined quantitative and qualitative methods in a way that, in my experience so far as a development economist, is rare. However, qualitative research has come a long way in the 20 years since I studied for my first masters degree (in international development). So I was curious to see how the combination could work.
4. The data was already collected, cleaned and formatted. It was just waiting in spreadsheets to be analyzed. In other words, much of the hard work of primary research was already accomplished. This meant getting the work into a final report was realistically doable – even within the three month timeframe it would need to be, to fulfill the criteria of a final paper for one of my classes. In other words, timing was perfect.

5. The study was done with a participatory mindset. From the outset, CCC promised to share the results with the producers who participated in the survey. They made good on that promise. This week (as I write), Hannah Popish (from CCC in North Carolina) is in Colombia presenting the findings to the growers in Huila, Cauca and Tolima. And it's not just presenting, it's visiting. Each meeting includes small groups and the intention is to learn as much as it is to share the research results so far.

6. I said at the beginning of the blog I was 'honored' to work with CCC. That deserves an explanation. For me it's an honor because I admire CCC's boldness in reaching for and developing resiliency. They have been instrumental in developing direct trade relationships in Burundi and now Democratic Republic of Congo. Now I learn Tim Hill has worked on iterations of cupping forms to find a method that will more effectively help him communicate with producers about growing quality coffee. I believe CCC is on the Collaboration for Food Security Council and now participating in an innovative collaboration between Food for Farmers, Root Capital and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to bring focus and resources to battling leaf rust in Latin America. I understand they will also support the 2014 Potato Taste Conference in Kigali, Rwanda. I could go on, but I'll just say that they also have great  coffee. Try some!

7. In case you feel like this is getting to be a bit too boring, reading about the great things CCC has done, don't worry. My critical side will include them, too. Stay tuned...

No comments:

Post a Comment