“Stop using flipcharts, start digging”: Industry Leaders and Coffee Farmers Pledge to Work Closer Together to Overcome Inequalities
International Coffee Partners (ICP) representatives from Swedish roaster Löfbergs and trading house Neumann Gruppe (NG) of Germany discussed together with coffee farmers from Honduras and Uganda how to align industry and farmer needs in the coffee sector. Kathrine Löfberg, Chairperson of ICP and Chair of Löfbergs, said: “It’s important we work together as a team at all ends of the value chain.” An opinion that was agreed on by smallholder farmer Christopher Mujabi from Uganda who added with a clear expectation: “Stop using flipcharts, start digging,” referring to all the time spent in workshop rooms instead of doing practical fieldwork as many other projects are still doing.
Löfberg and Mujabi were joined in discussion by smallholder farmer Karina Orellano from Honduras and Jörn Severloh, Managing Director of NG, during the Specialty Coffee Association’s World of Coffee in Berlin. To align towards a solution-oriented, hands-on approach in the coffee industry, the panelists agreed that critical issues need to be addressed simultaneously. Karina Orellano stated, “It’s very important to have farmers involved in discussions when it comes to topics of livelihoods, climate change, migration, coffee price, the role of middlemen and generational transition because farmers can speak for what is happening in the field.”
As a pre-competitive partnership of eight European coffee companies, ICP implements projects in Central America, Uganda, Tanzania, Indonesia, and Brazil. The aim is to ensure future generations a sustained livelihood with coffee. “This Berlin-Event has been a unique opportunity to discuss with farmers, a trader and a roaster about the key challenges within the coffee sector,” mentioned moderator Sara Morrocchi. “Being an unequal pair within the market dynamics, industry leaders and farmers became an equal one on stage.”
The panel agreed that farmers need to be seen more as entrepreneurs and partners, not as beneficiaries. Jörn Severloh said, “ICP’s aim has been and continues to be to strengthen family businesses and support income diversification to keep coffee production attractive.” Löfberg added, “For us at ICP, the pre-competitive project-work we are implementing is much more than just a sustainability program. The farmer communities, we as companies and the consumers, benefit from it.” However, she also sees the responsibility of the roasting industry, “We need to educate the consumers, so they understand the value of coffee and are willing to pay more.” The farmers are also ready to do their part, as Orellano stated, “I want everyone in my community to stay in coffee instead of migrating.”
International Coffee Partners is made up of Neumann Gruppe (Germany), Lavazza (Italy), Löfbergs (Sweden), Paulig (Finland), Tchibo (Germany), Joh. Johannson Kaffe (Norway), Franck (Croatia) and Delta Cafés (Portugal) and works closely with farmers since 2001. Around 82.900 families in 12 countries have already benefitted from ICP’s work. With the help of implementing partner, Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung, the projects of ICP can be realized and put into action on a global scale.
Left to right: Sara Morrocchi, Kathrine Löfberg, Christopher Mujabi, Karina Orellana, Jörn Severloh