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Making forest coffee profitable

The Problem

Ethiopia is the world's fifth largest producer of coffee. As an industry coffee can be hugely lucrative; it provides employment for nearly 15 million people and makes up some 28% of the country's yearly exports. Yet all too often farmers are excluded from the value chain, with profits being shared by distributors and middlemen, while farmers sell their coffee beans for a much lower price than they could be fetching. 

What were we doing?

Farmers sell their coffee to traders or collectors, who will then process the beans for export, selling them on to private businesses who are licensed by the government to export coffee. To access the best markets, coffee beans must be harvested to a certain standard. 

Farm Africa helped to increase both the quality and the quantity of coffee grown, and helped farmers to gain Rainforest Alliance certification, proving to buyers that the coffee is from well-protected forests and has not been grown with chemical fertilisers. Through agricultural training, the use of new technologies and the opening up of new markets through certification, farmers are able to earn considerably more from their coffee crops. Farm Africa also set up a forest coffee union, so that member farmers can export their own coffee themselves, rather than going through traders. 

Who were we working for?

Developing forest coffee value chains directly benefited 10,000 coffee producers in Ethiopia. We focused particularly on the empowerment of women, who have traditionally been excluded from certain spaces within the value chain. 30% of the beneficiaries of this project were women.

Who were we working with?

We worked with the Rainforest Alliance on this project to help farmers gain fair trade certification. In addition, the Oromia Forest and Wildlife Enterprise (OFWE), an autonomous public enterprise established by the regional government of Oromia, trialled more initiatives of this type, in collaboration with the Ethiopian Agricultural Bureau and Federal Ministry. This project was funded by the Barr Foundation. 

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