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ethiopian coffee_opt
Many of the world’s primary coffee-producing regions are also amongst the world’s poorest and issues such as poor infrastructure, lack of transportation, and  unavailability of markets only exacerbate the problem. But with the global market for coffee as strong as it is, and demand only increasing, the producers should not be left behind. Fair Trade has been a successful initiative over the last few years, but is not the only way for growers to ensure competitive pricing and a fair share.

The Duromina – meaning ‘improve their lives’ in the local Oromo language – cooperative in the Jimma region of Ethiopia hopes to improve conditions for producers and producing regions. Duromina was initiated by 113 local farmers in response to poor market rates for their product. The local coffee bean was previously known as Jimma 5, referring to the five major defects that can mar a coffee bean: overripe, underripe, cracked, insect damaged, and fermented. However, these defects were caused by farming and transportation issues, and not the quality of the beans themselves. And with no suitable infrastructure in place, farmers would be cut off from markets when the river swelled. Transportation issues would also mean buyers could lower prices and farmers would have to accept them.

And so, with a loan secured through non-profit organization TechnoServe in 2010, the Duromina coffee cooperative was able to install a wet mill to process fully washed coffee. This meant they no longer required transportation to reach a mill or were forced to sell unprocessed beans for a lower price. As a result of this improvement in quality, the farmers of the Duromina cooperative secured a contract with buyer’s from Sweet Maria’s and Stumptown. Last year Duromina sold 71 metric tons to four international roasters, all through direct trade links.

By taking the initiative for improvement upon themselves, and with the aid of a non-profit like TechnoServe, this community has been able to vastly improve their quality of life. The coffee produced has gone from being known for its poor quality to being voted the ‘Best in Africa’ by a panel of international judges. In addition to these accolades, the income and outlook for these farmers has been vastly improved. Using money generated through the cooperative, a bridge has been built over the nearby river and roads and infrastructure vastly improved. The community will soon be connected to the power grid for the first time, and the primary school has been expanded through grade 8. Further to this, some families have even been able to send their children on to secondary school in a nearby town.

Having a product to sell is the first step. But enabling producers to reach international markets is a much more difficult second step. With initial assistance from TechnoServe, and willing buyers in Stumptown and Sweet Maria’s, the Duromina Cooperative reveals the potential for improved farmer conditions in coffee-producing regions.

– David M Wilson

Sources: NPR, TechnoServe
Photo: Louisville Insider

Almost three-quarters of Africans rely on smallholder farming for their livelihood, yet one-third of all Africans go hungry. To meet that need, those farmers must increase their production dramatically over the next 40 years—and most of the world’s uncultivated land is actually in Africa. Clearly, smallholder farming in Africa is a big deal. Want to know the major players in the development of African farming? Read on.

1. TechnoServe

This is one of those organizations that has been working behind the scenes, primarily in Africa, for decades. Since the 1960’s, TechnoServe has been quietly targeting failing food markets, identifying unmet demand in those markets, finding the businesses that can meet that demand, and partnering with those businesses so that they grow and uplift their communities. Their emphasis is on partnership—they want to find the locals already doing great work and help them do it better. In 2011 alone, they helped their partners collectively earn $315 million in revenue and impacted over 2.5 million people’s lives in over 30 countries as a result.

2. One Acre Fund

This is the organization that claims to, within three years, represent the largest network of African smallholder farmers. How? They predicate their entire model on one simple idea: when a farmer increases their harvest, they lifts themselves and their community out of hunger and poverty. Toward that end, the organization offers a comprehensive “market-in-a-box” that lends farmers crucial agricultural inputs (seed and fertilizer), trains them how to use it, and connects them with markets to sell their yield. Their simple model has already reached over 60,000 farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi, and they project that they will reach 1.4 million farmers by 2020.

 3. Farm Africa

One of the leading African agricultural development organizations, Farm Africa does it all: bringing farmers better tools, showing them how to double or triple their harvest, and training them how to navigate the market. What makes them different? They say it is their unique, compound approach of agricultural innovation and marketing savvy. Because they are highly specialized in farming, they have a wide inroad into the development of Africa’s unfarmed land and untrained famers. In 2012 alone, they increased coffee crop revenue for farmers in Ethiopia by 600% and helped 30,000 people in Tanzania double their crop yields.

4. Self-Help Africa

If you really want to know what’s going on in the African farming world, you need to know about Self-Help. For over 25 years, this organization has been supporting farming entrepreneurs in Africa with microcredit programs, enterprise development, community cooperatives, access to inputs, and policy advocacy. Because the success of smallholder farmers lies at the heart of so many poverty-related issues in Africa, their mission is to empower Africa’s rural population. They work in nine countries across Africa and have reached millions of Africans with their services.

5. Practical Action

Yes, the name is broad—but so is the organization. Although Practical Action is one of the great champions of agro-economic development in Africa, it works all over the world. Its focus is “technology justice”, which is the equitable application of technology for positive social impact. So what are they doing in African agriculture? The answer: radical community development, policy advocacy focused on food rights, and over a dozen groundbreaking agricultural innovations, to say the least.

– John Mahon

Sources: IPS, Practical Action, One Acre Fund, Farm Africa, TechnoServe
Photo: The Guardian