22 Feb 2022

Meet some of the experts behind the Fairtrade Coffee School

coffee beans
We sat down with Alison Streacker and Sara Morrocchi, two of the coffee experts behind the initiative to discuss a number of topics, from what they love about the industry to the challenges they faced in creating the school during Covid-19.

As 2022 kick starts, the Fairtrade Coffee School is doing just the same. Available to Fairtrade coffee producers across the world, the school is an online, dynamic learning ground focused on how to increase market access and expand business opportunities.

We sat down with Alison Streacker and Sara Morrocchi, two of the coffee experts behind the initiative to discuss a number of topics, from what they love about the industry to the challenges they faced in creating the school during Covid-19. Here is what they had to say:

Fairtrade: Could you tell us a bit about yourself what you love about the coffee industry?

Alison: I’m Alison Streacker, the Global Product Manager for coffee at Fairtrade International. I have spent most of my career at Fairtrade, from Germany to El Salvador, and today I am most passionate about making the case (and giving the space) for smallholder farmers in the global coffee sector.

What I love most about the coffee industry is the people and their drive to create positive change. Their knowledge, warmth and expertise constantly remind me to keep an eye on what I can do to make the industry better.

Sara: Hello, my name is Sara Morrocchi, I’m the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Vuna Origin Consulting. I have been working in specialty coffee for the past 15 years, with a background in green coffee buying and quality control. Lately I have had the pleasure of working with producer organizations across the globe to scale their business models and find new markets.

Similar to Alison, I love how coffee brings people together. Our industry is a melting pot of professionals from all walks of life, united by one passion: making coffee better. It means we are driven by purpose, and it makes our industry unique.

Fairtrade: On the other hand, where do you see room for improvement?

Sara: The coffee industry is still governed by an imbalance of power and access to resources. Great progress has been made over the last 20 years, but I believe producer organizations and small-holder coffee farmers still carry the heaviest burden. Whether it is mitigating the effects of climate change, or price volatility, coffee professionals at origin should be better equipped to sustain growth and remain resilient.

Alison: Indeed. In a highly volatile environment, coffee producers are still expected to deliver on market prices and industry demands, while absorbing many of the costs. Supply chain actors need to pay a fairer price and invest in farm improvements to ensure true value distribution from bean to cup. It is imperative we have greater value distribution.

Fairtrade: Taking this into consideration, could you tell us more about the Fairtrade Coffee School?

Alison: The Fairtrade Coffee School aims at providing small-scale producer organizations with the tools they need to sell their coffee on better terms. It is accessible, innovative and easy to use, which is exactly what coffee education should be. Given its digital nature, it gives us the opportunity to connect with coffee farmers during the ongoing pandemic, in addition to providing them with a space for peer exchange. The school is available to Fairtrade certified producer organizations in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific.

Sara: Exactly. It is available anywhere, anytime. It runs on different languages, from Spanish to French, and soon in other local languages such as Vietnamese or Bahasa. It offers multiple courses, and it combines both remote and live engagement with students, even hosting over 1,500 participants simultaneously.

Alison: While we aren’t necessarily combatting all the challenges producers are facing, we will provide them with access to new information, new skills and the opportunity to learn with their peers. With a commercial focus, we hope that the school will allow producer organizations to strategically engage with supply chain actors and advocate for greater value distribution.

What topics are covered in the program and why did you decide to go for those?

Alison: The schools is currently offering two courses, one on green coffee trading fundamentals and a second on digital market access and client engagement. We decided to go for these based on early discussions with Fairtrade producers from all over the world. In nearly every country, the need was unanimous: market access. This is a broad concept, but we decided to start with the basics for the first iteration of the school..

What advice do you have to current and future students?

Sara: Take this opportunity not only to advance your own professional expertise but also to become part of a network of coffee professionals at origin with whom to exchange experiences and best practices in the future.

Alison: I would advise current and future students to challenge themselves, and above all to challenge the coffee industry. This is a great opportunity to gain new skills and exchange with coffee producers from across the globe.