Do you take water for granted? I do it sometimes. It is easy to do when you have never experienced a lack of it. You drink, shower and water your garden and don't think too much about where it comes from or where it goes afterwards. Despite the fact that everyone needs clean, healthy water in the same way that we need clean air, a rich biodiversity and a stable climate. Water is the base we build our lives and businesses on, something we at Löfbergs use to remind ourselves and others about.
There's no business on a dead planet.
But water is not only essential for our ecosystems. It is a human right. Despite that, ten percent of the world's population lacks access to clean water, and almost every third person lacks the opportunity for good hygiene (access to soap and water). Water is also a gender equality issue. In eight out of ten households that lack water at home, it is women and girls who are responsible for fetching water. An important but time-consuming and heavy task.
Today, the agricultural sector accounts for 70 percent of water use in the world. So in addition to being the foundation of all life, a human right and an equality issue, water is important to the world economy. When agriculture requires water, it can conflict with people's need for drinking water and access to hygiene.
Coffee farms, just like all agriculture, require water. In some regions, for example the highlands of South America and parts of Africa, access to water is not a problem - if there has been no deforestation. But in the low-lands of for example Brazil, which has been hit by drought and other effects of climate change, there is a different story. The development means that the need for artificial irrigation is increasing. Severe droughts can also result in governments temporarily relaxing regulations around certain pesticides that then risk ending up in drinking water.
The coffee industry is generally not very dirty, but with for example the wet method (washed coffee), where the pulp of the coffee berries is removed by soaking, an acidic waste water is created that needs to be treated before it flows on. The same applies where the waste water is used to wash trucks.
In its report "Water, sanitation and hygiene: three essential ingredients to resilient agriculture supply chains " , Wateraid clearly highlights that companies that depend on agricultural supply chains have a great responsibility and an absolutely decisive role. Something we at Löfbergs agree with.
At Löfbergs, the water management is an important part of our Code of Conduct. Our purchasers always follow up on how water is used and managed when they visit farms. In addition to that, certifications such as organic and Rainforest Alliance are one of our most important tools for developing and ensuring sustainable farming methods. We see with our own eyes how low-cost solutions such as rainwater harvesting, dams, buffer zones and waste water treatment produce good results. The risks are significantly reduced with access to knowledge - thanks to the Rainforest Alliance's methods for sustainable water use, we have seen examples where they have reduced water use in cultivation by 97%.
We, consumers and businesses, must work together to raise awareness and raise the issue of water higher on everyone's agenda. We need to understand how the climate crisis affects water availability, which in turn affects our resilience to the climate change. That it is exacerbated by deforestation and the loss of biodiversity, and is closely linked to human rights. Water is a prerequisite for all life, the climate – and good coffee.