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Coffee is more than just one of the world’s most popular beverages. For the world’s roughly 12.5 million farming families, coffee represents food, clean water, medicine, school fees, or a better home. Yet over 80 percent of these families are still living below the poverty line.
Many factors make it difficult for these farmers to earn decent livelihoods. As family land has been subdivided over the years, average farm size has significantly decreased. As farms shrunk, smallholder coffee farmers earned less, and were unable to invest in the farm improvements that would help them earn more from their coffee--leading to further decreases in production and sales. And while global coffee prices have fluctuated over the years, low market prices hit coffee farmers particularly hard when they are already struggling with these ongoing challenges.
smallholder coffee farmers
Watch the video to learn about how Ethiopian coffee farmers like Lubaba Mekonen are attracting top coffee brands and building brighter futures:
Our Work With Smallholder Coffee Farmers
One of the best ways to help coffee farmers increase their incomes, in many cases, is to work with them to enhance the quality and yields of their coffee while promoting value chain improvements that enable farmers to earn a larger share of export prices.
TechnoServe’s unique approach can also address the farm size problem, helping farmers fund education that enables their children to attain livelihoods off the farm if desired, allowing coffee farms to become larger and more profitable in the future.
Supporting Smallholder Coffee Farmers Promotes Sustainability Worldwide
TechnoServe is applying these solutions to help build a sustainable global coffee industry that can lift millions of farming families out of poverty. For five decades, we have developed a set of market-based solutions to meet this challenge and applied them in communities across Africa and Latin America.
Our approach addresses four key areas:
- Better Farming: Increasing the use of best farming practices by providing farmers with field-based agronomy and business training using local trainers
- Better Processing: Improving the quality of farmers’ coffee at the processing level by supporting the establishment and management of processing businesses
- Better Supply Chains: Developing lasting market linkages and advancing sector growth by engaging with industry players to share learnings and align priorities
- Better Environmental & Social Standards: Pioneering simple, cost-effective solutions for an environmentally sustainable and financially transparent coffee sector. As featured in Business Fights Poverty, TechnoServe’s work is a compelling use case to demonstrate the value of climate-resilient agriculture.
Featured Coffee Projects
Reviving Puerto Rico’s Coffee Industry
In the devastating wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico lost an estimated 80 percent of its coffee trees, crippling an important sector of its economy. This $85 million loss for the country's industry, left farmers struggling to provide for their families.
Enhancing Economic Well-Being for Coffee Farmers
The PROLEMPA project will improve the incomes of 2,200 Honduran coffee producers by promoting key agricultural techniques that boost yields and quality, and by linking farmers to new formal buyers
Enhancing Market Efficiency and Resilience for Growing Ethiopia’s New Coffee Economy
With funding from USDA, TechnoServe is working to enhance the sustainable competitiveness of the Ethiopian coffee sector through increased productivity, improved supply chain performance, strengthened market linkages, and a more facilitative enabling environment.
Maximizing Opportunities in Coffee and Cacao in the Americas (MOCCA)
The MOCCA Program is a five-year initiative, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food for Progress Program, aimed at helping more than 100,000 farmers to overcome the barriers limiting their capacity to effectively rehabilitate and renovate their coffee and cacao plants.
Reviving Coffee in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe has a long history of coffee production and was known for producing some of Africa’s best coffee. Production peaked in the late 1980s, but dropped significantly in the early 2000s because of economic hardship and climate shocks.
How Coffee Impacts Lives in Rwanda
In Rwanda, farming coffee is the main source of income for many families. COCAMU Cooperative Members are transforming their lives and communities by strengthening their farms.
Smallholder coffee farmers
TechnoServe has trained more than 400,000 farmers in sustainable agronomic practices, helping them improve the quality and yields of their coffee trees, which has in turned increased their income in the long term.
We have also built, supported, or strengthened more than 1,000 coffee processors in Africa, which has helped increase incomes for more than 500,000 farmers.
In the course of our coffee work, TechnoServe has created jobs as farmer trainers for more than 800 young people from coffee-growing communities.
TechnoServe has helped to improve the overall sustainability of the coffee supply chain by supporting many coffee processors and other businesses that employ many community members and that buy from small-scale farmers.
For instance, we have helped over 846 African businesses to adopt higher sustainability standards and increase operational and financial transparency.
In Ethiopia alone, we have helped nearly 90 wet mills (coffee processing facilities) to upgrade their wastewater management systems and comply with environmental regulations since 2010.
TechnoServe has supported government agencies in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and other nations to conduct policy reviews and develop industry strategies that leverage TechnoServe’s decades of on-the-ground experience.