Measuring Lasting Change for Coffee Farmers

May 08, 2017

Five years after completing a project to improve the livelihoods of coffee farmers in Rwanda and Ethiopia, TechnoServe asked researchers to return to participating communities and evaluate our lasting impact.

For nearly 50 years, TechnoServe has been providing business solutions to poverty. Our approach is based on our belief that when people are linked with the information, capital, markets and tools they need, they can lift themselves out of poverty and create prosperity for their families and communities, not for a moment, but for a lifetime.

In the field, we strive to uphold this mandate by providing hands-on training in good agricultural practices that farmers apply season after season to improve the quality and quantity of their yields, and by linking smallholders with the financing and market connections they need to continue their progress long after our projects have ended.

However, this type of long-term change can be difficult to gauge. Although we are rigorous in measuring our impact and we make conservative estimates as to the impact of projects that ended up to three years ago, the hard data for sustainability can be hard to track down.

“Long-term evaluations like this one are crucial for measuring the true impact of development interventions. With this validation of lasting impact, we are hopeful that the kinds of methods applied in TechnoServe’s Coffee Initiative will be scaled up in future development work.” – Charles Slaughter, Managing Director of the Goldsmith Foundation

In 2016, we sought to understand just how lasting the impact of TechnoServe’s work is. Thanks to a grant from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, we commissioned a post-project evaluation of a project completed five years earlier to improve the livelihoods of coffee farmers in Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Stumping trees promotes new, more productive growth in older trees and makes harvest easier for farmers by keeping the highest-yielding branches within reach.

For eight years, the Coffee Initiative helped farmers adopt productivity-enhancing agricultural practices and to establish or improve cooperative wet mills – low-tech processing facilities that can pay farmers a premium for their coffee. At the conclusion of the project, the improved yields and higher prices catalyzed by these changes resulted in a 62 percent income increase for participating farmers in Rwanda and a 21-percent income increase for those in Ethiopia.

We asked IPE Triple Line, an independent external research firm, to assess whether the benefits from this project endured after the end of our intervention. Researchers returned to communities where the project had been completed in 2011 in order to determine whether the the gains to farmer productivity and coffee price premiums were maintained five years later. The results of this evaluation were strongly positive.

“We are pleased – though not surprised – to see this evidence of the enduring impact of market-driven solutions to poverty. TechnoServe’s projects are designed to bring lasting change and help enterprising women and men improve their livelihoods for many years after our participation ends.” – William Warshauer, President and C.E.O. of TechnoServe

Before the project, just 45 percent of farmers surveyed in Rwanda were found to be using at least half of the recommended agricultural practices. This number rose to 97 percent immediately after the farmers completed training in 2011. Five years later, IPE Triple Line found that 78 percent of farmers were still using at least half of the techniques, reflecting lasting changes to farmer implementation of best practices.

The evaluation also analyzed the project’s lasting impact on the price premium that wet mills paid farmers above the local price of traditionally-processed coffee. In Rwanda, at the conclusion of the project, the premium averaged 34 percent. For the latest harvest analyzed by the study, wet mills still paid farmers a premium, now at 25 percent. In Ethiopia, at the close of the project, the premium was 25 percent, and it rose to 45 percent in the ex-post analysis.

Because farmers continue to use yield-enhancing best practices and receive a price premium from wet mills, the evaluation was confident that the farmers continue to enjoy improved incomes five years after the conclusion of the project.

Explore Triple Line’s full report.


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