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Theory of Change

Together for resilient coffee farming

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ICP‘s vision is to improve smallholder coffee farmer families’ livelihoods. To achieve this, ICP implements innovative project work on gender, youth, family business, farmer organizations, and the promotion of climate change adaptation with smallholder families in coffee regions. Within more than 20 years of operational experience, ICP has been active in 13 countries and reached over 115,000 farming families and worked together with over 2,500 farmer organizations of different sizes. This and more than 880 years of shareholder companies’ history show ICP’s superb sector knowledge and prove a long-term commitment to sustainability. ICP is more than just project work. We bring change for smallholder coffee farmer families, the communities, and the coffee sector. Working with a non-profit purpose helps improve smallholder families’ position in the coffee value chain. ICP projects are implemented by Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS), a long-term key partner in planning, programming, partnership development, reporting, and other project activities.

Problem Analysis

ICP focuses on the perspectives of people involved in coffee production and how to improve their livelihood situations. At the center of our work are smallholder families. As family-owned companies, we share the same values as our beneficiaries in coffee-producing countries.

12.4 million smallholder coffee farming families around the world face several challenges. They are weakly organized with poor access to expertise and support services and operate at the lowest market levels. Difficult framework conditions and lack of agricultural knowledge in many producing countries mean that farmer families only achieve rather low productivity levels and are dependent on middlemen who potentially force them to sell coffee below market value.

Fluctuating coffee prices make business planning oftentimes difficult for them and cause unstable income streams. Opportunities provided by the continuously growing coffee consumption are out of reach. We observe that youth are losing interest in rural livelihoods. They do not see motivating benefits from farming activities and lack trust and willingness for intergenerational dialogue with their parents. They are more often migrating to urban centers leaving behind an aging farming population.

Gender inequalities in households hamper the potentials of smallholder families by constraining balanced decision taking and a fair distribution of work. The effects of climate change are aggravating the situation and making agriculture and coffee cultivation more difficult. Pests and diseases are becoming more frequent and water regimes in coffee landscapes get distorted. Land use patterns largely affect natural resources contributing to deforestation and the loss of biodiversity.

ICP's Vision of Change

The vision of International Coffee Partners (ICP) is to improve the livelihoods of smallholder coffee farmer families by making them more competitive, based on sustainable practices.

ICP develops and implements a holistic approach to improve the livelihoods of smallholder coffee farmers and their families. This combines the promotion of improved and diversified production systems at the farm level, the application of sustainable agricultural practices, the development of strong farmer organizations, the promotion of gender equality, and the involvement of the next generation in decision-making at all levels. Tools and practices to support adaptation enhances the resilience of farmer families in face of changing weather patterns and resulting agricultural conditions. As the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly visible for the coffee industry, ICP will integrate the experiences and learnings of the initiative for coffee&climate into its holistic approach.

Focusing on livelihoods, ICP supports smallholder families to take informed decisions on continuing with agriculture and coffee as part of their livelihood strategy. ICP motivates them to grow quality coffee, get organized as a precondition for adding value, and successfully market their products while at the same time diversifying their production for secure food consumption and stabilizing family income. ICP places its emphasis on the smallholder families’ perspectives. Projects help them to reach their potential. Farmer families become strong actors in the coffee value chain. Our Hands-On approach to implementing projects in producing countries is very concrete.

Beyond the implementation of development projects at the grassroots level, ICP contributes to the sustainable transformation of the coffee sector in regions and countries by sharing experiences with other sector stakeholders thus giving a positive example of what can be achieved when pressing issues in coffee communities and coffee landscapes are addressed collectively.

ICP is Focusing on Four Core Topics

The development of attractive perspectives for young people who live in coffee regions has turned out to be a decisive factor in ICP’s project work as it invites the next generation of coffee farmers to actively participate in developing the coffee production systems and landscapes of the future. This shall raise the motivation of considering coffee as part of their livelihood strategies and while reducing pressure to move to the urban centers encourage their contribution to building thriving communities.

Also, the work supporting the establishment and professionalization of farmer organizations turns out crucial. They not only provide smallholder farmers as members access to relevant services and competitive markets but also represent long-term structures that can take over a number of support functions provided within project interventions and, thus, are an important pillar in ICP’s exit strategies.

Projects are embedded in regional ICP programs that benefit producers, connect them with other suitable and relevant partners, and provide valuable experiences for guiding stakeholder action and informing processes for advancing the local coffee policy framework.

The promotion of gender equality is mainstreamed within all ICP interventions. Smallholder coffee farmer families are supported to run their farms as successful family businesses and to get aware of the advantages and necessity of gender equality. The household members see themselves as equal partners in farming and other economic and household activities. They share opportunities and responsibilities. All household members share a joint vision of how to develop their livelihoods and take proactive steps to reach this vision. Such families are role models in their communities.

Working With a Holistic Concept

Important Elements of ICP Programming are:

  • Coffee productivity and quality.
  • Further development and diversification of production systems.
  • Development and professionalization of farmer organizations. Promotion of entrepreneurship.
  • Better access to markets.
  • Addressing climate change adaptation.
  • Adequate treatment of natural resources like soil, water, and biodiversity.
  • Improvement of gender equality.
  • Certification as an option for farmer families.

Active Around the World

ICP reached more than 115,000 smallholder families until the end of 2022 and is currently active in six countries.

ICP Provides Support in Times of Crises

In the focus countries, ICP is committed to providing support also in difficult times, e. g. in periods of political instability or other crises. Oftentimes these periods represent situations when ICP work is needed most to provide better perspectives for farmer families and communities. ICP’s commitment is valid as long as the conditions in the focus countries allow field staff to meaningfully provide their services. This has been proven during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. ICP quickly took significant measures to inform field staff and farmer communities while continuing possible support to protect crop cycles and the financial stability of families.

Principles of Our Work

Long-term Commitment

Long-term Commitment

Many of the processes triggered by ICP’s development work require a long-term commitment to target countries. For instance, addressing the organizational development of farmer organizations can take several years. A long-term commitment is also necessary to support connections with local partners, build trust, and establish cooperation agreements that combine valuable skills for enhancing operational effectiveness and efficiency.

Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning

Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning

As a learning organization, ICP assesses positive and critical experiences. We always strive to further develop our approach and enhance the efficiency of project interventions based on a strong M&E system. By implementing development projects and sharing these experiences within the coffee sector, ICP seeks to contribute towards establishing a fair and sustainable coffee sector in all coffee-producing regions and countries. Projects are thoroughly assessed by third parties to determine their impact and to share lessons learned.

Partnership Matters to Us

Partnership Matters to Us

We demonstrate how better solutions can be achieved by working collectively and how complementary skills and capacities of relevant actors align. Therefore, we have developed powerful networks with sector participants and stakeholders in all project countries.

Level Playing Field

Level Playing Field

Each farmer family, embedded in the community or cooperative, is a partner to ICP. We aim to create a level playing field by supporting farmer families’ competitiveness. In our experience, a grassroots and hands-on project approach is a compelling way to achieve this target.

Respect for Farmer Families' Independence

Respect for Farmer Families' Independence

ICP places its emphasis on the human being and people’s perspectives. Projects support developing farmer families’ ownership while their expectations are being reached. ICP does not work opportunistically. Families should always operate their businesses freely without becoming dependent on ICP.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The Work of ICP Contributes to the UN SDGs

Read more about how our work contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

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