Bad luck or poor health can happen to everyone, but if you are a coffee farmer in Laos, then it can be especially hard on you and your family. A sudden medical emergency could mean that you are forced to either sell your harvest prematurely at a significant loss or take out an expensive loan to cover the costs or even lead to foregoing the medical care you require.
One of the most significant parts of Slow’s mission is to help and support farmers in sustaining and improving their livelihoods. For most farmers being cash, poor is part and parcel of life as a small lot coffee farmer. This can be an issue at times in Laos, especially during the harvest season, when the majority of the coffee crops have not yet been sold. Slow recognizes the vital role of having cash readily available to support the farmers’ needs. We believe that providing the farmers with a 40 % initial payment before the start of the harvest season is the right thing to do. This improves the farmers’ cash flow immensely and helps provide better financial security for them and their families.
Even with the initial payment, Slow farmers can still experience a shortage of cash. Unforeseen expenses can be devastating and can affect a family for a long time. With a medical emergency, there really isn’t much choice. Taking out an expensive loan or selling part of the harvest prematurely at a loss are both poor choices, but oftentimes those are the only options. That is why Slow established a common emergency fund for all the four village groups. Here cash can be withdrawn free of interest to cover for sudden emergencies such as unexpected hospital admissions. Once the crisis is handled and the farmer has sold her or his harvest under normal selling circumstances, the farmer then pays back the loan to fund. Providing emergency funds is another significant step to improve the livelihood of the Slow farmers. This year alone, three members have withdrawn funds – and we are happy to report, are also back to good health now. While these efforts may seem simple, they do bring significant positive changes to the farmers’ lives. We are genuinely looking forward to building and implementing more programs such as this in the future.