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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, 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 farmers particularly hard when they are already struggling with these ongoing challenges.
Our Work in Coffee
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. This 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.
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
Featured Coffee Projects
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. In partnership with Nespresso, TechnoServe seeks to revive Zimbabwe’s coffee industry by…
Coffee Farm College in Uganda
The Coffee Farm College Program is a four-year training program that aims to improve incomes for 30,000 coffee farming households in Central and Western Uganda by increasing their coffee farm productivity. This will be achieved by promoting improved coffee agronomic practices at the farm level through a two-year structured and…
The MAS Project 2.0: Sustainable Agricultural Improvement
The expansion of the Sustainable Agricultural Improvement project (Mejoramiento Agrícola Sostenible, or MAS, in Spanish) targets small and medium-scale coffee and bean farmers in the central region of Honduras. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food for Progress program, the project supports the Honduran government's national development plan and agriculture sector strategy.
Strengthening the Coffee Value Chain in the Congo
The SVC is providing training to 15,000 coffee farming households, over the course of five years, and delivering technical assistance to cooperatives and other market actors to bolster the specialty coffee value chain in South Kivu. The project aims to increase farmer yields by 30 percent, while supporting local…
Global Coffee Platform Study
In 2017, TechnoServe and the Global Coffee Platform published a study on smallholder coffee production that identified opportunities for potential benefits to coffee farmers from improved farm profitability and increased efficiency along the supply chain.
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.
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.