Report: “Incredible Growth”, Better Quality in E. Africa Specialty Coffee Sector
Washington, D.C. – Farmers in East Africa had good reason to celebrate International Coffee Day this year on October 1.
In the past few years, East Africa has undergone dramatic improvements in the quality and geographical diversity of its specialty coffee. The region now produces approximately 25 percent more high-quality coffee than it did 10 years ago, benefiting both the smallholder farmers who produce the coffee and the specialty coffee companies looking for new and better flavors to bring consumers.
A new report from the nonprofit organization TechnoServe highlights the impact of a nearly ten-year project called the Coffee Initiative, which resulted in an increase of almost 8,000 metric tons of specialty coffee annually, 340 new or improved coffee processing plants (called “wet mills”), $25 million in new corporate investment and over a quarter of a million (268,000) farmers benefiting in the region.
“Traditionally, specialty coffee in East Africa came from only a few regions,” said Paul Stewart, TechnoServe’s Global Coffee Director, who headed the project. “But with the incredible growth of the region’s specialty coffee sector, there are now dozens of new areas around East Africa that are producing high-quality coffee and attracting interest from specialty coffee companies for the first time. This is changing how coffee buyers source from this region, and improving incomes for hundreds of thousands of smallholder coffee farmers.”
Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by TechnoServe, the Coffee Initiative:
- Improved farmers’ average coffee incomes by 27 percent
- Trained nearly 140,000 coffee farmers in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania in good agricultural practices, resulting in average yield increases of 38 percent (and growing)
- Helped farmer groups establish 195 new wet mills and improve operations at 145 additional wet mills, a critical component of enhancing coffee quality and sale prices
- Helped farmers connect with banks, exporters and other market actors to access more than $21 million of financing and earn an average price increase of $1.54 for each kilogram of coffee they sold
The coffee sector holds particular promise for Africa’s economic development. While the continent is home to some of the world’s best coffee and over half of the world’s coffee farmers, it accounts for only 10 percent of global coffee production. At the same time, the international coffee market is growing by 140,000 metric tons per year, equivalent to the annual production of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi combined. And unlike industries like extractives, 60-70 percent of the export price goes directly to smallholder farmers.
Coffee farmer cooperatives like Duromina in Ethiopia represent the kind of success farmers have achieved in the past few years. Previously producing low-quality beans for a low price, the cooperative received technical and financial guidance from the Coffee Initiative, and in 2012 its coffee was named the “Best in Africa” in a top international tasting competition. Farmers then invested the extra income into the community, resulting in a better school, a new bridge, a new medical clinic, access to electricity and other long-term improvements.
TechnoServe is a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty. A nonprofit organization operating in 29 countries, we work with enterprising men and women in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses and industries. By linking people to information, capital and markets, we have helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities. TechnoServe has earned a 4-star rating from independent evaluator Charity Navigator for the last 10 years, placing us in the top 1 percent of all its rated nonprofits.
With nearly 50 years of proven results, TechnoServe believes in the power of private enterprise to transform lives.