International Coffee Partners: COVID-19 reveals importance to support smallholder families beyond coffee

International Coffee Partners (ICP) urges to be prepared for post-COVID-19 support for smallholder coffee farming families. Giuseppe Lavazza, Vice-Chairman of Lavazza Group, Italy, and one of the ICP shareholders says: “We really need to be very present to accelerate the rush out of COVID-19. And immediately after continue to support smallholder families with targeted actions.” While ICP is continuing to implement its holistic approach during the pandemic, learnings from these difficult times will be integrated in post-pandemic activities. ICP’s past and continued work enabled farmer families in ICP projects since the COVID-19 outbreak to be more food secure because of diversification, families managed to cope better with the situation because of previous gender sensitization and farmer organizations that were supported by ICP organized the flow of information during the lockdowns to their members. Especially support by farmer organizations is still weak in many coffee producing regions resulting in increased poverty and food insecurity during COVID-19.

Meeting smallholder coffee farmers in the field for more coffee sustainability
Learnings from the pandemic like stronger integration of digital solutions or awareness raising for health topics will be taken into account for the future additionally. “We are ready to reinforce the holistic ICP-approach immediately after the pandemic. COVID-19 will hopefully just be a very bad memory for all of us one day”, says Lavazza. As soon as lockdowns are lifted and daily life resumes in the home countries of coffee farmers, the emphasis needs to be on continuing to strengthen the livelihood situation of smallholder families even stronger than before the pandemic, Lavazza stresses.

Preparation for post-COVID-19 support for smallholder farmer families is important

“We are ready to reinforce the holistic ICP-approach immediately after the pandemic. COVID-19 will hopefully just be a very bad memory for all of us one day.” – Giuseppe Lavazza

Restrictions on our everyday life to contain the Coronavirus are lifted more and more in most European countries and more than one third of Europeans have been fully vaccinated. What most don’t know is that developing countries are lagging behind. While the still rare vaccines are mainly distributed among wealthier nations, countries like Uganda, Indonesia or Honduras still need to focus on lockdowns and other restrictive measures. Travel restrictions, homeschooling and the closure of workplaces are an especially heavy burden on the poorer part of the population.

Corona still a big problem in coffee growing regions

Rural population of these countries rely in large parts on growing coffee and other crops. International Coffee Partners (ICP), a pre-competitive collaboration of the eight European family-owned companies Delta Cafés (Portugal), Franck (Croatia), Joh. Johannson (Norway), Lavazza Group (Italy), Löfbergs (Sweden), Neumann Gruppe (Germany), Paulig (Finland) and Tchibo (Germany), are dedicated to improve the livelihoods of these farmer families with a holistic approach to smallholder family farming. Since its founding in 2001, more than 100,000 farmer families have received trainings by ICP.

Giuseppe Lavazza made his comment during the online celebration of 20 Years of ICP – “Focus on People! How the coffee sector can ensure smallholder families’ livelihoods”. ICP shareholders Giuseppe Lavazza, Kathrine Löfberg and Michael R. Neumann discussed the pressing issues faced by smallholder coffee farmers together with Gunter Schall from the Austrian Development Agency and Michael Opitz from ICP’s implementing partner Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS). The ongoing pandemic is just one of them. Another core topic has been the conviction that even smallholder farmer families need to act as entrepreneurs. That includes freeing themselves from just one source of income. “Depending on coffee alone and therefore putting all your eggs in one basket, as it is said colloquially, is a risk”, says Michael R. Neumann, Member of the Advisory Board, Neumann Gruppe, Germany, “entrepreneurship is important even in the smallholder sector in the coffee producing countries.”

Event Card 20 years ICP
In order to help farmer families to become entrepreneurs, ICP assists in organizing them in cooperatives and helps farmers decide for the future on what activities are important for the sustainability and prosperity of their family. Neumann mentions the African situation as an example: “With the growth of population, there will be an increasing and huge demand for food. So even farmers in ICP projects, while hopefully dedicating to coffee for the money economy of their business they will also be concentrating on food production for their local and national markets. These are all considerations that an entrepreneur takes when planning activities ahead.”

The power of partnerships between public and private sector

ICP’s commitment is thereby based on “certain humanistic values which center on the equality of human beings in the world, and we put the constant improvement of an individual’s qualities and skills at the center of our work”, says Michael R. Neumann. When it comes to assisting and training those at the very basis of the supply chain, ICP hopes to be a leading example of how companies and individuals behind the companies can come together to address common problems. Pre-competitive and long-term commitment of important industry players is a relevant pillar when it comes to stabilizing a supply chain that all of us depend on. Cooperation with the public sector is a key element elaborated Gunter Schall from the ADA: “Partnerships between public and private sectors are built on common goals, trust, and the understanding that both sides have to serve a diverse set of interests.”

Event Card 20 years ICP

After all, it is not only the farmer families in developing countries who rely on their products in order to live a good life. A whole industry can only exist as long as farmer families at the beginning of the supply chain manage to do their work. The same goes for any other industry – and the consumers who in the end enjoy the final product, be it a steaming cup of coffee or any other product based on the work of families in developing countries.

„We have a lot to work on there to really get the consumers to understand the process behind the hard work, all the way that the coffee goes.” – Kathrine Löfberg

Since many consumers are not aware of the work that goes into the final product, Kathrine Löfberg, Chair of the Board, Löfbergs, Sweden, adds another thought: „We have a lot to work on there to really get the consumers to understand the process behind the hard work, all the way that the coffee goes, from the coffee farms to end up in a cup somewhere. It’s important that everyone gets more knowledge about it, and also has the respect for what is done in the whole process.”

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