Sustainable Specialty Coffee in East and Central Africa
By admin April 22, 2016


Despite being the continent where coffee originated, Africa’s coffee industry has suffered many blows over the past few decades. Instability in certain countries has drastically decreased coffee production in volatile regions, overproduction has led to nutrient depleted soil ., and a drastic increase of coffee producers entering the market worldwide has significantly lowered the price of coffee beans. However, as African farmers hone in on more specialty coffee varieties, they are better able to weather the drops in coffee prices by adjusting their target markets. As they are better able to reach niche markets that create a better return on investment, they earn a much greater profit than more common coffee varieties.

The potential for growth in niche markets for specialty coffees has caused more investment in unique varieties. Countries are beginning to partner up with larger multinational companies to rebuild coffee production capabilities in Central and East Africa where there are opportunities and a history of cultivation.

Sustainability has been a particular concern as businesses and international organizations work with local leaders to build the economy. The greatest concerns in terms of sustainability are economic growth, social development, and concern for the environment. Merely providing coffee beans to farmers is not enough, the community needs to have the means to support the production through training, environmentally-friendly practices that preserve the surrounding ecosystem, and promotion of human rights for the wellbeing of the communities themselves.

In 2005, Starbucks invested in a three-year “Coffee for Conservation” project in East Africa with the African Wildlife Foundation, focusing on “promoting coffee quality, environmental sustainability and natural resource conservation in East Africa” as it trained local farmers. More recently, Starbucks has teamed up with Ben Affleck’s Eastern Congo Initiative to purchase coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s rejuvenated coffee market to offer a special Congolese blend as it advocates sustainable agricultural practices. With similar goals, Nespresso and Technoserve have created a partnership to invest in rebuilding coffee operations in South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Rwanda to integrate the specialty coffee into their own supply chain.

Coffee cooperatives can provide valuable opportunities for small farmers to negotiate with larger companies and allow greater room for maneuverability and innovation. One interesting development that has been gaining popularity in sustainable coffee markets is the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) framework that incentivizes female participation and contributions to advance communities socially and economically. This year’s Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Sustainability Award Winner was the Bukonzo Joint Cooperative, a farmers’ cooperative that started out as a group of community volunteers in Western Uganda, for its GALS policies and work in women’s empowerment. Hivos, an international nongovernmental organization, and Twin & Twin Trading Ltd, a trading company that specializes in coffee, will soon be working with Tanzanian cooperative Vuasu Cooperative Union to provide business training and support to Tanzanian women in the coffee sector using the GALS framework.

The specialty coffee market is giving more opportunities for African farmers to reenter a flooded coffee industry at a greater profit margin, reenergizing African communities and the economy in the process.



For more information:

Starbucks Partners with the African Wildlife Foundation on its Global Coffee Sustainability Initiatives

The Eastern Congo Initiative and Starbucks

Scaling Up Coffee Sustainability in East Africa

Specialty Coffee Association of America Sustainability Awards Winners

Inclusion of Tanzanian women and youth in sustainable coffee farming

International Coffee Organization: Sustainability of the coffee sector in Africa


Thanks for sharing !

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