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Over the past decade, the value of the global coffee industry has almost doubled to $90 billionMore than 2 billion cups of coffee are currently consumed worldwide each day and the market is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 5.32% between 2020 and 2024. Younger generations in particular, are driving demand for high-quality coffee, and willing to spend more money on unique and premium coffee experiences.

With global demand for coffee continuing to rise and consumers showing a thirst for coffee craftsmanship and new exquisite blends, this should be an ideal time to be a coffee farmer. However, entire communities around the world with rich histories of high-quality coffee are, in fact, struggling. Finding ways to support the growth and sale of high-quality coffees can help restore livelihoods and these regions’ economies.

Why coffee farming communities are struggling

Currently, around 25 million smallholder farmers produce 80% of the world’s coffee, while more than 125 million people depend on coffee for their livelihoods. But in many regions, coffee farming is threatened by a range of challenges.

In Zimbabwe, coffee production fell from 15,000 tons in the late 1980s to just 500 in 2017 due to decades of instability and economic shocks, which almost completely destroyed the country’s entire coffee industry. Aside from the collapse of the country’s national economy, there was also the knock-on effect of low yields of high quality coffee, leading to limited economic returns for farmers.

In regions of Uganda (the Rwenzori Mountains) and Colombia (Caquetá), two of the world’s largest coffee producing and exporting countries, coffee farming has reduced in recent years, impacted by climate change and conflict respectively. In the Rwenzori region, farmers collect 1.5 kilograms of coffee cherries per tree every year, below the national average of 2 kilograms and 5 kilograms in model farms, while in Caquetá, almost 50 years of conflict meant many farmers abandoned their lands and coffee almost disappeared from the region.

Furthermore, experts predict climate change could cut the land suitable for Arabica coffee production in half by 2050, eradicating both coffee and livelihoods.

Sector revival is possible, through collaborative support from governments, NGOs, coffee brands and consumers. Nespresso’s Reviving Origins program demonstrates how coffee can restore local economies that face hardship. Through training and technical assistance delivered by Nespresso and its partners on the ground – including young agribusiness, Agri Evolve in Uganda; the Colombian National Federation of Coffee Growers (FNC) in Colombia; and a global non-profit organization TechnoServe in Zimbabwe – this support has helped farmers across the world to embed sustainable farming practices, and boost coffee quality and productivity.

In these three regions alone, Nespresso is working with more than 3,500 farmers. The Reviving Origins program is an integral part of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, our sustainable sourcing model in coffee producing countries, which involves more than 110,000 farmers across the world.

Such efforts increase the possibility that high-quality coffee in these regions can become globally available. Training and education enable farmers to grow the amount of high-quality yield, which boosts income year-on-year and stimulates the local economy. As a result, farmers can attract premium prices for their coffee and enhance their quality of life. Importantly, this sort of support helps to expand the marketplace for quality coffees, creating long-term opportunities for sustained growth and success.

For coffee farmer Jesca Kangai from the Mutasa District of Zimbabwe, being part of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program means she can now send her five children to school and has been able to buy a cow and goats to help feed her family. Another farmer from the region, Zachariah Mukwinya, has plans to enlarge his homestead, improve his farm’s irrigation, and wants to buy a car.

Such support is making a clear difference in other ways, too. Nespresso figures show that from 2018 to 2019, high quality coffee production increased by 9% in the Manicaland province of Zimbabwe and 10% in Caquetá, Colombia.

New solutions

In the Rwenzori, support has meant helping farmers to revive the quality potential of natural Arabica in the region, by reinventing the traditional and sustainable process of natural unwashed Arabica known as DRUGAR (Dried Uganda Arabica).

Traditionally, DRUGAR coffee has a reputation of being of lower quality, with farmers picking both ripe and unripe beans, which were then sold to intermediary buyers in the region. A lack of market infrastructure meant that farmers often had to sell their entire crop for a low price – and were unable to invest back into their smallholdings.

As part of the Reviving Origins program, Nespresso has worked with partners Agri Evolve, Kyagalanyi and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) in Uganda to implement solutions, such as the establishment of coffee stations, which offer enhanced drying and processing capacity to farmers, and the creation of a tree nursery to redistribute coffee and native tree seedlings to farmers. This helps farmers to increase the quality of their crop, enhance biodiversity, and mitigate soil erosion. With these stations in place, new supply chains in the Busongore North and Bukonzo East areas, could enabling coffee farms to increase coffee productivity and quality.

This article was first published in World Economic Forum.

Also read: Does coffee affect your biology? Yes, more than just waking you up

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