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Supporting Smallholder Coffee Farmers WorldwideWhat is not to love about the aroma of freshly brewed coffee in the morning? But what most java enthusiasts do not realize is that 44% of the world’s smallholder coffee farmers are currently living in poverty, and 22% live in extreme poverty. The stock of coffee trees is aging, and along with changing climate conditions, the farms’ productivity is threatened and the risk of crop diseases is increased. An outbreak of coffee leaf rust, a fungus that cripples the trees’ productivity, struck many small family farms between 2012 and 2014. Coffee leaf rust caused more than $1 billion in crop losses in Central America, and 1.7 million jobs vanished across Latin America.

Farmers Below the Poverty Line

Even in the best conditions, one-third of farmers earn less than $100 per year from growing coffee, and 60% of the world’s coffee is produced by farmers with less than 12.35 acres of land. Challenges arising from inefficient production methods and profiteering coffee roasting companies make it difficult to earn a living. Of the 12.5 million smallholder coffee farmers worldwide, an estimated 5.5 million exist below the international poverty line.

Coffee farmers face many obstacles, including the low international price for coffee. According to Oxfam, some farmers have little to no power to negotiate with traders and must accept the low prices offered. If farmers process their coffee by removing its outer layer, they can demonstrate their beans’ quality and negotiate a higher price. But if their coffee is sold in its original form, they must settle for a lower price. In Peru, even with semi-processed beans, farmers are still short-changed. And while traders make extra profits for themselves, even larger margins are made by coffee roaster companies in the United States and Europe.

Smallholder Coffee Farmers Need Support

In the Andean region and across Central America, approximately 750,000 smallholder farmers produce coffee and cacao. Often these farmers depend on limited water resources, which are barely enough to grow subsistence crops. Low incomes result in malnutrition, minimal educational opportunities and disease. Quechua-speaking communities as well as Amazonian indigenous communities receive little support from the government, and therefore lack agricultural technology. This dearth of opportunity perpetuates poverty.

Maximizing Opportunities in Coffee and Cacao in the Americas (MOCCA) is working to help smallholder coffee farmers efficiently produce more coffee and cacao. Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food for Progress Program, MOCCA is carried out by a consortium led by TechnoServe, a non-profit organization operating in 29 countries. MOCCA also partners with World Coffee Research and Lutheran World Relief.

MOCCA’s Initiatives to Aid Smallholder Coffee Farmers

MOCCA is working to improve the lives of over 120,000 coffee farmers in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Peru. It enables farmers to make much-needed improvements while addressing the underlying problems that prevent their farms from being profitable.

MOCCA’s goals include:

  1. Training smallholder farmers to adopt agricultural and business practices that can increase quality, yield, sustainability and profitability. This includes pruning, stumping or replanting unproductive trees, which can dramatically improve a farm’s productivity without expanding its acreage into forest ecosystems.
  2. Augmenting research, bolstering the sustainability of research initiatives in the region and improving how research findings reach farmers. A regional coffee breeding hub offers a centralized resource to enhance varietal development, along with climate-smart solutions.
  3. Expanding farmers’ access to pure, healthy genetic planting material for planting, verifying large seed-producing nurseries and giving technical assistance in best production practices.
  4. Integrating farmers into higher value trading models by working with roasters, processors and private exporters to expand or capture greater market value. Through addressing issues such as supply chain inefficiency, this plan allows farmers to obtain higher profits and reinvest in their farms, while boosting buyers’ local, sustainable supply of higher quality products.
  5. Mobilizing and collaborating with finance partners, value chain stakeholders and local governments to implement finance mechanisms for the farmers.
  6. Improving institutional capacity to deliver services that support renovation and rehabilitation. This involves collaborating with coffee and cacao institutions to expand their existing services, or introduce new ones, to support the farmers they serve.
  7. Strengthening platform support to the coffee and cacao sectors to promote knowledge and technology sharing among sector stakeholders.

In addition, MOCCA works to integrate young people and women into coffee and cacao market systems, so that these systems are more inclusive.

In February 2020, TechnoServe was named the “Origin Charity of the Year” by the National Coffee Association, the leading trade organization for the coffee industry in the United States. This award recognizes the company’s work of supporting smallholder coffee farmers around the world.

Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

10 Mission-Driven U.S. Coffee Shops Fighting Global PovertyAccording to the National Coffee Association, 64% of Americans above the age of 18 drink at least one cup of coffee per day. Coffee is clearly important for many Americans, but few think about the often impoverished communities where the coffee beans are grown. Only a select few countries are suitable for coffee production, and many of them are at an economic disadvantage. Recognizing this inequality, many U.S. coffee shops are incorporating ways to relieve global poverty into their business model. From partnering with international nonprofits to doubling as a refugee training program, these 10 mission-driven U.S. coffee shops are fighting global poverty with each morning iced latte.

10 Coffee Shops Fighting Global Poverty

  • Elevate Coffee: This mission-driven coffee shop in Phoenix, AZ believes that small donations go a long way in the fight against global poverty. With every purchase of a latte, Elevate Coffee donates $0.10 to Water 4 Kids, a nonprofit organization that works to make clean water more accessible in developing countries. Water 4 Kids provides clean water packaged in easily recyclable aluminum cans to children in areas where clean water is scarce.
  • 1951 Coffee Company: Taking inspiration from the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention where the protection of refugees was first discussed on an international level, 1951 Coffee Company is a nonprofit cafe based in Berkeley, CA that trains refugees for careers in specialty coffee. So far, their program has trained 79 individuals and created a supportive community for refugees in the local area.
  • Duo 58 Cafe: This cafe in Orlando, FL is committed to reducing world hunger. Duo 58 partners with a nonprofit organization called Mission of Hope that provides meals for children in Haiti. In 2020, Mission of Hope has been able to serve 101,000 meals to students every day.
  • The Well Coffeehouse: The Well Coffeehouse in Nashville, TN is taking a hands-on approach to relieving the conditions of global poverty. By funding the construction of wells in developing countries and forming strong relationships with the farmers who produce their coffee, The Well Coffeehouse is certainly “turning profits into hope.” So far, The Well Coffeehouse has funded the construction of 23 clean water wells in different African countries.
  • FEED Shop & Cafe: This mission-driven coffee shop in Brooklyn, NY is the first retail location of the nonprofit, lifestyle brand FEED. FEED sells products crafted by artisans in developing countries such as India and Sri Lanka and donates their profits to nonprofit organizations that relieve world hunger. Each price tag of a FEED item tells the buyer how many meals their purchase can provide in developing countries. At FEED Shop & Cafe, customers can enjoy great coffee and buy products that foster sustainable communities.
  • Ascension Cafe: Based in Dallas, TX, Ascension Cafe aids impoverished communities in coffee-producing regions. This cafe understands that the effects of poverty are multifaceted, so its profits go toward improving conditions for struggling communities in a variety of ways such as funding clean water projects and entrepreneurial programs.
  • MiiR Flagship: MiiR Flagship in Seattle, WA doubles as a cafe and shop that sells MiiR products, such as stainless steel bottles and tumblers that encourage sustainable living. With each purchase of a beverage or MiiR product, the company donates to poverty-reducing projects in 26 different countries. Since its start in 2010, MiiR has raised over $1.3 million!
  • The Roosevelt Coffeehouse: This mission-driven coffee shop based in Columbus, OH is partnered with a group of nonprofit organizations including Blood: Water Mission, Food for the Hungry and Gracehaven that work toward solutions to global hunger, clean water scarcity and human trafficking. The Roosevelt Coffeehouse doesn’t keep its humanitarian work under wraps—the brand strives to bring awareness to global injustices and inspire others to get involved.
  • Mocha Joe’s Cafe: This cafe in Brattleboro, Vermont serves coffee made by Mocha Joe’s Roasting Co. The company wants to cultivate flourishing ecosystems and communities, so its coffee blends are made with fair trade and sustainably-sourced beans. Additionally, Mocha Joe’s maintains direct trade partnerships with small coffee farms in Cameroon, Bolivia and Guatemala to encourage economic development in their communities.
  • Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee: With a “Do Good Initiative” at the core of its business, this coffee company based in Roswell, GA gives back directly to the communities that grow their coffee by funding projects to provide needed resources. Recently, Land of a Thousand Hills built a health clinic near Kivu and Ruli, two remote Rwandan villages.

These 10 coffee shops are doing their part to contribute to the global fight against poverty—one cup of coffee at a time.

Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Flickr

B Corporation

B Corporations are businesses that give back to the community by following a set of guidelines for transparency, accountability and that pledge a certain amount of profits for a greater purpose.

Five B Corporations You Should Know

  1. Salt Spring Coffee, Canada
    B Impact Score: 118.4/200
    Salt Spring Coffee is a fair-trade organic coffee company that works with the Nicaraguan farmers to sustainably farm, sell and serve the highest grade of coffee beans on the market. Salt Spring hopes to pave the way for the coffee industry in producing eco-friendly packaging and contributing meaningful donations. The company does this by donating to innovative, eco-conscious projects through their 1% for the Planet fund.  These donations have allowed the company to co-found a Canadian waste-reduction initiative, help install solar panels for isolated Nicaraguan farmers and assist a women-run Ugandan farming co-op.
  2. Hora Salud, Chilé
    B Impact Score: 117.8/200
    Hora Salud is a simple user-friendly app for the rural Chilean populace that allows individuals to schedule and cancel appointments and check-ups online without wasting time. The app uses SMS to schedule and cancel doctors appointments. This allows already-sick individuals to avoid the burden of traveling to a Health Center and waiting in line for hours to book an appointment. Hora Salud may also be used in tandem with other markets to spread relevant information including weather, national emergencies and public policies. Their mission is to “Improve the quality of people’s lives, optimize service delivery and decision making with reliable and quality data.” As one of many B Corporations, Hora Salud promotes healthy business practices and opportunities for rural Chilean people.
  3. BioCarbon Partners, Zambia
    B Impact Score: 177.3/200
    BioCarbon Partners (BCP) operates in and outside of Zambia to offset carbon emissions in the atmosphere by sponsoring payment for eco-friendly business operations. BCP is an African leader in the reforestation carbon offset program. With a mission to “Make conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people,” BCP is cultivating an ecosystem that protects one of Africa’s largest migration sanctuaries. The company prioritizes community engagement and partnership to incentivize forest protection through long-term habitat protection agreements. BCP calculates the amount of carbon that is not released into the atmosphere due to its project and generates sales of these forest carbon offsets through independent external auditors. BCP then reinvests this revenue into conservation and development projects in local communities that rely on wildlife habitat for income. BCP has created 87 jobs for Zambians and continues to create opportunities for wildlife and humanity alike.
  4. Avante, Brazil
    B Impact Score: 136.1/200
    Avante is the largest benefactor of small businesses in Brazil with more than $200 million invested to serve “micro-companies” that are typically pushed out of the financial industry. Avante functions as a non-conventional financial technology service that uniquely combines credit, insurance and payments. It is currently the largest MFI in Brazil. Avante’s mission is to “humanize financial services,” through a combination of empowerment, ethical business practices and acknowledgment that small businesses are the foundation of a strong economy.
  5. Alma Natura, Spain
    B Impact Score: 153.8/200
    Alma Natura established B Corporation status in 2013 to give back to the Sierra de Huelva community of Spain. The first institution of the business began as a nonprofit. It eventually evolved into a limited partnership as Alma Natura continued to invest in rural businesses, guiding them towards a more sustainable and ethical future. With their increased profits, Alma Natura gave back by funding education, technological development and sanitation, ensuring financial equality and sustainable practices in towns with less government funding. Not only has Alma Natura functioned as a business consultant to guide rural communities towards a more equitable economic future, but their commitment to preserving the planet and providing care and education to disadvantaged agricultural centers places their ranking high among businesses that take responsibility for the betterment of humanity.

Natalie Williams
Photo: Pixabay

Moyee Coffee is Helping Farmers in Ethiopia
The days of poor coffee farmers in Ethiopia receiving underpayment for hard work may soon be over as Moyee Coffee is helping farmers in the country. Moyee, a Dutch coffee brand, is transforming supply chains with blockchain. Moyee begins this process by creating unique digital identities for its coffee producers. Next, it sets prices at 20 percent over the market rate. Buyers can view these prices and choose to support the livelihood of farmers in Ethiopia. The coffee company is also creating an app that allows customers to tip farmers. These business decisions are what make Moyee the first multinational coffee company based in Ethiopia.

Why Coffee is Such a Tough Business

People consume billions of cups of coffee every day and the coffee industry is worth almost $100 billion, yet the producers of the coffee bean are among the world’s poor. Approximately 90 million people who help produce coffee live on less than $2 a day. To put that into perspective, most Americans spend more than $2 a day on a cup of coffee.

A lot of the problems associated with coffee farming and poverty have to do with climate change and price fluctuation. Climate change has altered growing seasons making it difficult to produce good quality crops. Species of coffee are dying out because of deforestation and soon farmlands may become unsuitable to grow coffee. Prices fluctuate often because of supply and demand. The problem is that when climate change damages crop yield, prices can be low which means farmers earn less than they should for their product.

How Blockchain Increases Profits for Farmers in Ethiopia

This is when Fairchain comes in. Fairchain is a version of blockchain that Moyee created. It is a digital supply chain that is completely transparent. The supply chain tracks every transaction from the coffee bean to the coffee cup. This allows blockchain to cut out the middleman and help control price fluctuations. When the supply chain is transparent, people and companies can see how much each chain in the line received to keep prices fair. This is what helps farmers when prices fluctuate dramatically because they get a fair price even when demand is low.

How Moyee Coffee is Helping Farmers

Moyee gives coffee farmers mobile wallets, tap cards, identification numbers and barcodes that allow them to receive payments directly. Moyee also allows customers who buy its coffee to support farmers by using a QR code. The code allows customers to tip the farmer or fund small programs that aid farmers like microloans or training.

The Moyee Brand has a growing impact in Ethiopia by using blockchain to increase profits for coffee farmers. The use of technology has allowed for supply chains to become more transparent. Transparency is key because customers are often unaware of where their product is coming from and how much the producer receives. The increase in profits can help farmers in a variety of ways. Their product yields could increase and they could live a more sustainable lifestyle. Middlemen used to take advantage of farmers and cut their profits, but Moyee is changing that and hopefully, it will serve as a model for other multinational corporations.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

Coffee Grounds into Fuel for RefugeesDozens of student teams at the University of Toronto (UoT) recently participated in the Clinton Global Initiative’s 2017 Hult Prize competition. Given today’s global context, the theme of this year’s competition was “Refugees – Reawakening Human Potential and Restoring the Dignity of 10 Million People by 2022.” Several students from UoT impressed the judges with their initiative to turn coffee grounds into fuel that can be easily implemented in refugee camps across the world.

The Hult Prize is one of the largest and most competitive student contests in the world. The competition focuses on improving social good, specifically reinstating the rights and dignity of communities affected by social injustice, politics, economic, climate change and war. The winners of the contest receive $1 million in start-up funds and mentorship from international business and humanitarian leaders.

The competition is run by the Hult Prize Foundation. The foundation has stated that it believes the number of refugees worldwide far exceeds the number estimated by the United Nations, which is partially what inspired this year’s theme. “Rather than focus on aid and charitable approaches to refugee migration, we focus this challenge on the reawakening of human aid,” says the foundation’s website.

In Canada, the government resettled more than 25,000 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and February 2016, so the theme of the competition is relevant for UoT students. Canada’s private sponsorship program continues to facilitate the relocation of even more refugee families from Syria.

Five students from UoT, Lucy Yang, Matthew Frehlich, Gotham Rakmachandran, Sam Bennett and Lucas Siow, have advanced to the regional semi-finals of the competition. They have designed a substitute for firewood, called Moto, made from coffee grounds, sugar and paraffin wax. The mixture is put into a loaf pan and baked. The product is easily produced and gets rid of waste from used coffee grounds.

A 2014 survey from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees found that 90 percent of refugees in Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda rely on firewood to cook and keep themselves warm. Moto will prevent the dangers that come along with searching for firewood outside of the camps.

The creators of Moto have used the log substitute to boil water and cook lentils, successfully turning the coffee grounds into fuel. The log can burn for up to 90 minutes.

The goal for Moto is to connect the idea with businesses in Africa and refugees living in Toronto in order to tweak the design to best meet the needs of refugees living in camps across the world.

The design is simple so that people living in developing countries can eventually learn to utilize the technique themselves. The idea of turning coffee grounds into fuel is a revolutionary one that has the potential to make lives easier for refugees all over the world.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Protecting the Coffee Farmers
The exponential rise in demand for coffee has led to insuperable pressure on coffee farmers all over the world. The 22 percent decrease in global coffee exports has adversely impacted the supply of coffee as climate change patterns continue to debilitate.

The major cause of the decrease in supply lies in the rapidly rising global temperatures. This temperature spike has culminated in poor yields as the coffee plants thrive on more moist and cooler conditions for flowering and fruiting. If not, the crop becomes more vulnerable to the combined effects of pests and various diseases.

Consequently, a large proportion of coffee growers in developing economies in African countries, Brazil, Colombia and India are smallholder farmers. Protecting coffee farmers is especially essential because they do not have the means to support and adapt to the changes in the market, especially during the concurrent price volatility for coffee. There are around 120 million individuals who rely on this produce for their livelihoods.

A recent report consolidated by Australia’s Climate Change Institute highlighted that by the year 2050, 50 percent of the land dedicated to growing coffee would shrink. This will lead to negative impacts on yields.

Protecting the coffee farmers is vital to ensure continued production of coffee to meet the increasing demand. Using sustainable practices and approaches will be instrumental in achieving this goal, along with carefully monitoring supply chains. Many organizations have therefore recognized the need of addressing this key objective.

The 15-year collaborative effort that Conservation International has embarked on with Starbucks, with the establishment of the CAFE (Coffee and Farmer Equity) practices program, has been a pillar of strength to coffee growers. Moreover, the concept of Ethical Sourcing has brought about the inception of the components: Quality, Social Responsibility, Economic Accountability and Environmental leadership. These initiatives will ensure that coffee growers have an efficient way of sustaining their produce every year.

The Smart Coffee ID Card has also helped in protecting the coffee farmers in Colombia. Through this scheme, farmers get a chance to make payments effectively. Digitizing payments has been proved to stimulate more financial and social inclusion within communities to help combat poverty, as accentuated by the U.N. led coalition, Better Than Cash Alliance.

Fortunately, this channel is now also being used for the provision of government subsidies and incentives. From 2007- 2014 alone, a record 5.4 million payments were made.

Moreover, the Kagera Co-operative is also protecting coffee farmers. It has a widespread influence in Tanzania and reaches out to 60,000 smallholder farmers who aspire to sell their products on the fair trade market. Fair trade Coffee Cooperatives have a massive outreach with a renowned reputation for alleviating trading and price restrictions, along with granting workers considerable autonomy.

Overall, protecting coffee farmers effectively can be achieved by the concerted efforts of the coffee farmers, governments, local charities and international organizations so that coffee farmers continue to have an outlet for their produce and can earn high returns. Collaboration in this manner will pave the way for a sustainable future, where conservation, farming practices and livelihoods are all safeguarded.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

shop_ethically
Clothes, food, technology. These are things everybody needs but also have strong associations to ethical problems. Shopping ethically is a growing concern for many people, yet the idea that ethical purchases are not affordable is pervasive. In addition, the constant bad news surrounding the practices of companies makes it seem impossible to be an ethical shopper. All of this leaves many of us with one question:

How can I shop ethically?

It is a question being asked a lot these days. And even though it might not seem easy, a little extra attention can go a long way, and it is not as expensive as it may seem. Here’s a few easy ways to shop ethically.

Do Your Research

In the fight to shop ethically, research is everything.

The biggest companies can afford to market themselves as ethical to shoppers. This allows them to manipulate concerned consumers into purchasing their products.

Luckily, there are ways to know what you’re buying before you buy it. Ethicalconsumer.org, for instance, ranks products in a variety of categories based on different metrics. Much of this information is available for free on the site, though some more in-depth information requires a subscription.

Doing research on products is a good way to be sure that what you’re buying is an ethical choice. In addition to researching, remaining vigilant in reading labels to spot companies notorious for ethical violations, such as Coca Cola and Nestle, is a key element in shopping ethically.

Thrift Shop

Goodwill currently operates over 2,500 stores in the United States. Savers operates over 270 stores. There are also countless independent thrift stores, providing good clothing for a low price. For consumers looking to ethically shop, thrift stores provide an affordable way to avoid incentivizing the abusive practices of the larger clothing industry.

Unethical labor practices is the biggest concern proponents of ethical consumerism have regarding the clothing industry. Though a variety of clothing sources exist that do not support this, many of these sources are not cost-effective. By purchasing clothing at a thrift shop, fashion-conscious activists can both avoid feeding into unethical labor chains and support their local communities.

Make it a Treat

Let’s get this out of the way: most ethical chocolates and coffees will be more expensive than their less ethical alternatives. Unfortunately, the exploitation of the developing world that is all too common within these industries is, more often than not, a cost-cutting measure. When cocoa farmers in the $16 billion-per-year chocolate industry receive between $30 and $100 per year, this is a measure by those in power to cut costs.

This does mean that, in general, most ethical chocolates and coffees will be a bit less friendly to your wallet. But by treating these items as occasional treats, you can save up for the ethical, and better, brands and indulge guilt free.

Shopping ethically is just as much about what we don’t buy as it is what we buy. When chocolate from Côte d’Ivoire, where CNN stated slavery within the chocolate industry is “normal,” is purchased, shoppers incentivize the highly unethical practice. Though more expensive and ethical options may not be purchased with the same regularity, purchasing them exclusively while buying chocolate less exclusively both supports ethical production of chocolates and rejects the lack of ethics within the chocolate industry.

Ethical consumerism is a increasing concern. This is good, but it is also easy to feel nihilistic when faced with a structure which, previously, hasn’t had to take things into account. But by being smart and patient, consumers can find easy and affordable ways to shop according to ethics.

– Andrew Michaels

Sources: Ethical Consumer, Time Green America, CNN Blogs
Photo: Natura Magazine

coffee_farmers
The Gates Foundation and the company TechnoServe have developed a solution to the endemic poverty of smallholder farmers in Africa — The Coffee Initiative. Across Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and more, the Initiative empowers each wrung of the business ladder involved in the coffee-making process, increasing income and lifting communities out of poverty.

Today, around 4.2 million households of smallholder coffee farmers (20 million households) live below the poverty line.

“Without access to technical knowledge, professional processing and milling services, reliable markets or working capital, these farming families are forced to sell their coffee at low prices. Under these circumstances, it is extremely difficult for these farmers to escape poverty, despite the backbreaking work they put into their coffee harvests,” explains the Gates Foundation on its website, Impatient Optimists.

The Coffee Initiative has helped to break this cycle in many communities. TechnoServe adapts its education programs and implementation strategy to the unique cultural, financial and physical context of each farm.

It aims to help communities realize their potential; East Africa is one of the most conducive places in the world for coffee to grow. Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania have rich soil, high altitude and temperate climates, enabling them to produce some of the most high-quality coffee in the world.

To help communities reach their full potential, TechnoServe teaches private, coffee export companies how to work with credit, quality assurance, administration and price risk management.

These export companies then sell their newly acquired services to small coffee cooperative farms, enabling increased effectiveness and efficiency for both farms and service providers.

Every level of business involved in the coffee-making process benefits from TechnoServe’s initiative and has the incentive to continue to implement the new techniques they have learned.

“The smallholder farmers earn more, as they can sell the higher-quality beans for a premium to more reliable markets. (Beneficiaries of the program saw their coffee incomes increase by an average of 22% across the region, while that figure rose to 50% in Rwanda.) The coffee service providers, meanwhile, collect a percentage of the sales and thus have strong incentives to continue providing services and financing to the coffee farmers. And the financial institutions have gained a reliable customer base with a strong record of repayment, encouraging them to continue to provide financing,” explains Impatient Optimists.

Technoserve teaches smallholder farmers how to improve the quality, sustainability and yield size of their coffee. Farmers who participated in the education program increased their coffee yields on average by 42 percent.

TechnoServe has built over 266 wet mills, which process raw beans, since 2000. Over 250,000 farmers have benefited from this. TechnoServe also facilitated lasting relationships between small farms and large, corporate coffee roasting companies, which are now purchasing more coffee from East Africa.

“For instance, the ‘Uzuri African Blend’ from Peet’s Coffee & Tea consists entirely of coffee from Coffee Initiative clients and represents the company’s first African coffee blend. Similarly, high-end coffee roasters Intelligentsia and Stumptown Coffee Roasters have marketed individual Ethiopia wet mill client coffees as single-origin products with the cooperative name displayed on the coffee package,” explains TechnoServe.

The Coffee Initiative has made an enduring impact in Ethiopia. Ethiopians have grown coffee for centuries; however, they previously used traditional, dry processing methods. Little attention was given to quality.

Though the climate and altitude were perfect to produce high-quality beans, the region was known for bad coffee. Farmers received very little for their crops and, subsequently, remained impoverished.

In 2010, the Coffee Initiative took action in Ethiopia. One hundred local farms unified into a cooperative called Duromina. TechnoServe helped them with financial planning and built a wet mill so the coop could fully wash its coffee.

Just two years later, a panel of judges voted Duromina’s coffee the best in Africa. “Buyers from Stumptown Coffee Roasters described Duromina’s coffee as an ‘extremely complex yet clean cup that flaunts notes of lemon, cinnamon, sweet hops, ginger and nectarine accented by jasmine,’” says TechnoServe’s website.

Duromina repaid its loan in just one year, rather than the four-year plan. “In 2012, four major international roasters purchased 71 metric tons of green coffee through direct trade relationships with Duromine, paying an average of $3.68 per pound, a 65 percent premium over the international commodity price,” explains TechnoServe.

The community experienced economic stimulation, and with this new income, were able to improve the quality of life. For instance, the cooperative invested in a bridge. Before it was built, during the rainy season the river would flood and cut off community members’ access to markets and medical clinics.

“So many people were injured falling into the river when attempting to cross during heavy rain. We could not benefit from many government services because of the river, and some pregnant women even died because they could not reach the clinic,” said Nizamu Abamecha to TechnoServe, Duromina’s chairmen. Today, because of the Coffee Initiative, more remote community members are able to cross the river during the rainy season.

Farmers have also been able to invest in tin roofs, new furniture and solar power. Many are now able to send their children to primary school, and some can send their children to even secondary school or college.

– Aaron Andree

Sources: Global Dev Incubator, Impatient Optimists, Technoserve
Photo: TechnoServe

coffee_growers
Near the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, coffee is a staple crop. Coffee growers range from huge commercial enterprises with factories and automated systems, to family farms doing everything by hand. The commercial farms have the clear advantage, but a new technology designed by an international crew of innovators may help the smallest farmers close the gap.

To make coffee, farmers must harvest the bright red coffee cherries and split them in half to access the bean inside. This process, called pulping or shelling, is vital to coffee production and is extremely labor intensive. Doing it by hand is too slow to be feasible. While the big factory farms have machines that require very little labor to operate, smaller villages make do with hand-powered cranks that require a great deal of strength and patience.

The MIT-sponsored International Development Innovation Network Summit this past year played host to hundreds of inventive individuals looking to solve problems like this one. The group included Tanzanian business school student Yesse Joshua Olijange, whose parents are farmers originally from Leguruki and Bernard Kiwia, a Tanzanian bicycle mechanic turned inventor.

Kiwia supervised the summit team Olijange was a part of. The team also included self-taught Tanzanian inventor Mwanaharusi Goha,  Brazilian engineering student Eduard Eric Schardijin Ghanaian, engineering student Helen Amorin, German industrial designer Mona Mijthab and El Salvadorian nonprofit worker Geovany Moreno. Together, they designed a simple improvement to the hand-powered pulper.

According to designer Mona Mijthab, “Most people [in Leguruki] have bikes,” she said, “We thought, we can use parts of the metal pieces instead of the real bike. Things like the frame—these materials are available.”

The team attached the pedals of a bike onto a sturdy metal frame and hooked it up to the hand-cranked pulping machine. Now, instead of requiring immense upper-body strength, a person can operate the machine as they would ride a bike. The machine, which is around three feet tall, takes raw cherries in through a funnel on its top and runs them through a rotating drum with spikes on its interior. The spikes take the outer shell off of the coffee and spits them out separately from the beans. Using a hand crank, farmers can pulp about 33 pounds of cherries every 10 minutes. With the new prototype, the time is reduced to two minutes.

This is only one of many exciting prototypes to come out of the IDIN Summits. Since 2012, IDIN has been connecting innovators from different countries and industries around the world to challenge them to develop not only designs, but prototypes that can improve the lives of those living in poverty. Interest in IDIN’s methods and solutions is growing, and this year three summits will be taking place in Colombia, India and Botswana.

These summits are part of a bigger trend in innovation as the world’s most creative minds apply themselves to solving the problems facing the world’s poorest populations.

– Marina Middleton

Sources: Smithsonian, International Development Design Summit, International Development Innovation Network, D-Lab
Photo: Enlightened Consciousness

Despite Cameroon having one of the better economies in sub-Saharan Africa, the country faces a relatively flat per capita income of $1,270 dollars annually with a 39 percent national poverty rate. In rural areas, slightly more than half of the population has access to clean water, leaving 48 percent of the rural population without vital resources. Contributing factors to Cameroon‘s poverty include corruption, economic disparity and an unstable business climate.

Omer Maledy Gaetan, executive secretary of the Council for the Cocoa and Coffee in Cameroon explains, “Cameroon used to be one of the biggest coffee producers in the world.” Coffee is important to Cameroon’s economic success as it comprises six percent of the country’s gross national product and provides a living for approximately 400,000 farmers. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Essimi Menye notes that “coffee remains a key crop that could contribute to Cameroon’s planned development by 2035.”

Starting in 1990, Cameroon began working with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in reform efforts, spanning from attracting business investment to increasing the productivity of its agricultural industry. However, these efforts have not stopped the decline of the coffee industry.

In recent years, Cameroon’s coffee production has continuously declined and in 2013 production fell by 56 percent from the previous year. This translates to a decrease of an estimated 21,000 tons of coffee in one year. Furthermore, Cameroon’s harvest in 2012 was one-third of its 140,000 ton harvest in 1986.

Gaetan explains, “Our coffee is currently in very bad shape, [the 2013 yield is] the lowest figure we’ve known since Cameroon started growing coffee in 1957. And yet, we’ve known prosperous years. In 1990, we exported 156,000 tons.” But why is the industry declining at a continuous and recently rapid pace?

Following the Cameroon government’s decision during the 1990s to do away with the agriculture sector’s subsidies and economic protections, the prices of inputs such as fertilizers rose quickly. Coffee Farmer Isaah Mounde Nsangou explained, “Without fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides and sprayers, it was hard for many farmers to sustain their farms.” The liberal reforms led to other unpredictable costs for farmers, like costs incurred from lack of infrastructure maintenance.

Gaetan explains, “In 1980, we were ranked the 8th world coffee producer. In 1992, when we liberalized the sector, Cameroon was ranked 12th in the world. Today, we are ranked as 30.” Despite the decline of the industry, Cameroon is looking to boost its productivity in response to increased worldwide demand for coffee, which has risen by three percent every year. The CICC has begun a project called New Generation, which is working to engage the youth in the coffee industry.

The CICC will also be disbursing approximately 1.5 million dollars through assistance programs over the next five years in order to stop plummeting harvests. This past February, the European Union signed a 30 million euro contract, which aims to revitalize the coffee sector during the next six years by offering various forms of support to farmers. Farmers have proposed restarting abandoned farms and improving upon commercial delivery, networking and product quality. Other objectives include the creation of an additional 3,600 hectares of coffee plantations over the upcoming six years.

In a country like Cameroon where rural poverty is still an issue, investment in the agriculture sector will provide opportunities for many farmers to escape poverty. The strategies at play, from getting the youth involved to investing in support programs and new plantations, are promising. The potential for growth is present, and it seems Cameroon’s farmers are more than willing to seize the opportunity.

Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: Global Issues, VOA News, CIA, World Bank
Photo: RecorderLine