International Coffee Partners (ICP) recently extended its project work to Ethiopia. The “Coffee Alliances for Ethiopia” (CAFE) project is co-financed by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, and will increase the economic situation and well-being of smallholder coffee farmer families in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. Until August 2023 it will reach 2,500 smallholder families.
Kathrine Löfberg is Chairperson of ICP and Chair of Löfbergs of Sweden. Desalegn Eyob is Country Director of the implementing partner Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) in Ethiopia. We spoke with both about the background of this new project.
Why is ICP expanding its project work to Ethiopia?
Kathrine Löfberg: ICP is active in neighbouring Uganda since 2005 and Tanzania since 2010 where smallholders experience a similar situation like the one, we find in Ethiopia. During these years we made great progress and collected a lot of valuable knowledge. We saw how livelihoods of smallholder families improved through better farm management, increased adoption of good agricultural practices and gender inclusion. Farmer families learned about diversification with a broader range of food and cash crops, which supported them to become resilient to unexpected shocks like weather patterns. And we focus on long-term effects. Building and strengthening farmer organizations and introducing climate change adaptation practices makes coffee farmers and the crops ready for the future and the farmers more entrepreneurial.
All shareholders in ICP have a great interest in building upon this knowledge in the region. We clearly felt that this is now the time to bring it to Ethiopia to support smallholder families there as well.
Ethiopia is the largest producer of coffee in Africa. How is the situation of smallholder families?
Desalegn Eyob: Coffee is indeed one of the most important agricultural products in Ethiopia. Approximately 2,2 million smallholder families are engaged in coffee production with coffee as their main cash crop and approximately twenty million people depend on coffee production along the value chain. Many of these smallholder farmers face a range of economic, social and environmental problems which threaten their livelihoods and jeopardize the development of the individual farms. They are weakly organized, have no access to relevant services or finance, feel the impacts of climate change on their crops and are in danger of losing the next generation of farmers as youth are migrating to urban center. And like Kathrine Löfberg already pointed out, many challenges in Ethiopia are like in other East African countries. So, we really welcome that ICP is also getting involved in Ethiopia.
Entrepreneurial smallholders will also be stronger business partners in the value chain, won’t they?
Kathrine Löfberg: At ICP we first of all put the well-being of the farmers ahead of commercial interests. As ICP is made up of eight family owned companies, we very much understand, what it means to run a family business. As we already state in our slogan: We are working together for resilient farmer-families. And this includes all aspect of smallholder farming. We want farmer families to be strong in their daily life and to be able to develop further – both in coffee value chain as well as with their local communities. Being strong participants in markets also means that shaping these markets together becomes easier.
What does the project work include on the ground?
Desalegn Eyob: The project supports the setup of efficient, inclusive farmer organizations, improving farming systems and their resilience to climate change, food and nutrition security as well as increased gender equality. Coffee production is an important source of income. That’s why the project aims to raise productivity by 40% per hectare on average until August 2023. With 71 Farmer Field Schools we cover about 20 topics which depend on the seasonal crop calendar. And we know about the importance of gender inclusion on the household level. We will for example train couples to become change agents, who then will promote joint household decision making in the communities.
The project is co-funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). Why is this cooperation important?
Kathrine Löfberg: With the new project intervention, ICP builds upon experiences made during a first phase of CAFE which was implemented since 2014 in the region. It was co-financed by ADA, The Löfberg Family Foundation, Lavazza Foundation and Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung and already reached 2,500 smallholder families and supported 10 Farmer Organizations as well as the establishment of the Amhara Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. We are really happy that we can continue the partnership with ADA. Having public and private partners working together to improve living conditions in areas like the Amhara region is a global responsibility. We are working for a future in Amhara with a young generation full of potentials and we are more than sure, that together with ADA we are going to achieve best possible results for the smallholders.
International Coffee Partners (ICP) is a pre-competitive initiative of the leading European family-owned coffee companies, Delta Cafés of Portugal, Franck of Croatia, Paulig of Finland, Joh. Johannson of Norway, Löfbergs of Sweden, Lavazza of Italy, Neumann Gruppe of Germany and Tchibo of Germany. ICP’s objective is to contribute know-how to establish a sustainable coffee sector in key producing countries through the implementation of best-practice projects in coffee farmer communities. Since 2001, ICP has reached more than 80,000 smallholder families in 12 countries.
The Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, supports countries in Africa, Asia, Southeast- and Eastern Europe in their sustainable development efforts. Together with public institutions, non-government organizations and businesses, ADA currently implements projects and programs with a total volume of EUR 500 million.