Nespresso AAAPopular on every continent of the earth, coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world. In 2017, more than two-thirds of the global coffee production was exported, creating 125 million jobs and an $83 billion retail market value. The market is also extremely vast. While the largest importing countries are the United States, Germany and France, most coffee beans grow in smallholder farms in developing countries across Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, including 22 Low Human Development Countries, according to the U.N.’s Human Development Index. The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Program aims to help coffee farmers in developing countries.

Coffee Farming in Developing Countries

In many of these underdeveloped regions, coffee is a particularly important crop and a significant source of income for farmers to recover from natural disasters, economic volatility or political conflicts. However, many smallholder farmers find it difficult to tap into the global premium market due to their low productivity, outdated processing technics and lack of market access. More than 2.5 million African smallholder coffee farmers are still in extreme poverty today. In other words,  they live on less than $1 a day.

Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program

Seeing the difficulties that farmers face and the great potential for future development, Nespresso, a subsidiary of Nestlé, one of the most popular and successful coffee businesses of the 21st century, launched the AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program in 2003. AAA stands for the triple focus on high quality, productivity and social and environmental sustainability, aiming to encourage rural economic development and improve the livelihoods and well-being of coffee farmers while producing high-quality coffee. To enter the program, a farmer has to produce a specific aroma profile and meet the quality and sustainability requirements.

Technical Assistance and Business Support

Once accepted in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, farmers receive tools and learn sustainable coffee growing and processing practices from the agronomists that Nespresso sends directly to their communities. Nespresso also helps install small wet mills that allow for greater efficiency and quality control in coffee aggregating and processing. Thanks to the adoption of these new or improved practices, land productivity has increased 40-50% in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Besides, Nespresso trains the farmers for better farm economic management and business practices, easier access to new and differentiated markets and stronger resilience to climate change through climate-smart agricultural practices. Together, this ensures greater profitability and income stability. Farmers have the right to choose the buyers, although many just sell their coffee to Nespresso since it offers a fair price of around one third above the standard market price and up to 70% of the export price can go back to farmers and their local communities.

Wider Systemic Solutions

Beyond the coffee business, the ultimate goal of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program is to improve farmers’ living conditions. After years of endeavor, the program is evolving into a broader rural development program that encompasses sustainable agriculture, financial literacy, municipalities and social welfares. For example, in 2014, Nespresso and Fairtrade International together launched the Farmer Future Program in Caldas, Colombia, to provide the first pension scheme for coffee farmers. This will also help with the generational transfer of farms from parents to children, ensuring opportunity for young people in coffee-producing regions.

As of 2020, Nespresso has committed an annual investment of CHF 40 million and 400 agronomists have been sent to help farmers. More than 110,000 farmers in 14 developing countries have been participating in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program.

The program is a veritable triple-win collaboration between coffee farmers, Nespresso and the customers. Nespresso sources approximately 95% of its total coffee supply through the AAA program, which is not far from 100%, its ultimate vision for the end of 2020.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Kivu Specialty Coffee Project
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was once called a “paradise of coffee” and is host to some of the most fertile land in the world. But years of conflict have cost the nation its access to the world market and left farmers with no income or infrastructure to maintain a business. On March 22, 2016, Starbucks started selling specialty coffee from the South Kivu province of DRC across 1,500 stores in USA, Canada and online.

The Kivu Speciality Coffee Project

This coffee is also gaining popularity amongst other premium labels such as Counter Culture Coffee, Square Mile Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee, to name a few. This is possible because of the Kivu Specialty Coffee Project, which is not only reviving their previously declining industry, but is also a testament to how international funding can alleviate poverty.

The Kivu Specialty Coffee Project is a joint four-year funding venture of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation; the program supports over 4,000 farmers with $5 million. Known to the locals as Kahawa Bora Ya Kivu, the project is implemented on site by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), World Coffee Research and the Eastern Congo Initiative.

Coffee Export Stability

Farmers have always known how to produce coffee, but have faced challenges in exportation. The biggest hurdle was sustaining production in an environment where rebel groups often attacked farmers working outdoors or at markets.

This led to low productivity, as farmers only produced 250 kg per hectare when they could be producing 2000 kg per hectare, and an irregular supply of beans. Moreover, lack of access to technology and processing units led to low-quality beans that didn’t receive a reasonable price in the world market.

Through the Kivu Specialty Coffee Project, survivors not only receive healthcare support, but they also learn new techniques to produce coffee. Farmer field schools are set up to increase access to technical education and assuage the transfer of knowledge from farmer to farmer.

Becoming More Eco-Friendly

People are also educated on eco-friendly approaches to harvesting. Compost from coffee pulp and other ingredients is recycled as fertilizers. This detail ensures that they produce not just more, but higher quality coffee whose production can be sustained for a long time.

The World Coffee Research (WCR) contributes to this goal through the introduction of technology, improvement of soil fertility and intercropping practices. The organization has also funded three new washing stations for coffee bean preparation and a coffee-tasting laboratory in the South Kivu region so that the government can monitor the quality of coffee before its sale.

Farmers learn from WCR personnel how the variety of coffee beans can be increased and are also taught marketing strategies to ensure the stability of DRC coffee in the global coffee market. This has fostered stronger buyer-seller relationships for DRC while also encouraging innovation.

Providing Farmers Credit

Farmers, regardless of male or female, now have a higher access to credit. The project launched a pre-harvest financing agreement with Westrock Coffee to ensure that farmers are directly paid for their cherries during the time of harvest.

This system ensures that women and men are both paid fairly according to their yield, not their gender. This works to rid Congolese of the innate idea that coffee is a man’s crop since 29 percent of the Kivu Specialty Coffee Project’s cooperative members are women and receive just as much income as the men do.

As more of DRC’s coffee is sold in North America, farmers now receive triple the amount of 2014. With more organized and informed production, several citizens are benefitting and winning the battle against poverty.

Starbucks for Positive Change

The Starbucks Foundation is also increasing measures to support the education of young women studying agriculture by investing in local organizations. This action is geared in the hopes of creating more jobs for affected young adults and former child soldiers, and of promoting peace and conflict resolution in the region.

Several residents of South Kivu experience improved standards of living thanks to the Kivu Specialty Coffee Project, and this positive impact wouldn’t be possible without international funding. Such success is yet another success story that drives home the message that eradicating poverty and funding those measures benefits everyone.

– Sanjana Subramanian
Photo: Flickr

Coffee market in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has spent the past 30 years moving forward from a famine of biblical proportions by expanding an unlikely market. The coffee market in Ethiopia has experienced recent growth, improving both the economy and the lives of people in coffee production.

Ethiopia is currently the fifth largest coffee producer in the world, with over two million coffee farmers. With close to half of its coffee production exported, the country contributes about nine percent of the world’s total coffee production.

However, Ethiopia’s past is marked by tragedy. In 1984, BBC reporters Michael Buerk and Mike Wooldridge brought the Western world’s attention to the “biblical famine” devastating the country. More than one million Ethiopians perished due to this tragedy, and over eight million were affected.

Coffee holds great social and cultural value in Ethiopia due to its significance in the economy. The recent growth in the coffee market in Ethiopia has helped over 15 million people who directly or indirectly derive their livelihoods off of coffee production, according to the USDA.

Duromina: Coffee Farmers Invest in Local Communities

A direct example of this is the success of a coffee cooperative in southwestern Ethiopia, which has received a premium price for its internationally sold coffee. The coffee cooperative is named, Duromina, which means “to improve their lives.”

Generations of farmers had been growing coffee in this area for generations, earning a meager income. But in 2010, over 100 local coffee farmers came together to form Duromina in order to improve their lives.

Duromina skyrocketed, making good money for all of its farmers. With the new income, the farmers decided to invest their money into their community.

The nearby river often swells, making it impossible to get to the nearest clinic from their community. To fix this problem, the farmers invested in a bridge so everyone could have access to the clinic at all times and would not hurt themselves trying to cross the flooded river. After building the bridge, the farmers then invested in their homes and their children’s future.

The transformation Ethiopia went through is evident not only within communities, but also in the copious amounts of lush green farmlands and forests where there were once drought-stricken dustbowls. Individuals who saw Ethiopia 30 years ago are astonished and inspired by the improvements, according to World Vision.

– Bella Chaffey

Photo: Flickr