At a glance:

  • GIZ was commissioned by BMZ to implement the COVID-19 Emergency Aid for Fair Trade in more than 30 countries in the Global South. BMZ provided a total of EUR 19.5 million for this purpose.
  • Between October 2020 and December 2023, the COVID-19 Emergency Aid for Fair Trade was implemented in a total of 37 countries worldwide.
  • The initiative was implemented in cooperation with Fairtrade (Germany and International), Forum Fairer Handel e.V. (Forum Fairer Handel) and the Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e.V. (Welthungerhilfe).
  • The aim was to alleviate the hardship of smallholder farmers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic with direct and rapid relief measures and to contain the spread of the virus.
  • Furthermore, the takeover of operating costs and the implementation of various training courses ensured the business continuity of the producers and their organizations.


The most important facts in brief:

The COVID-19 Emergency Aid for Fair Trade runs from October 2020 to July 2024. The last implementation activities were completed in December 2023. A total of 781 producer organizations with 1,281,737 smallholder farmers were reached, including 463,042 women.

The initiative has the following key objectives:

1. Emergency aid to alleviate the socio-economic hardship caused by COVID-19.

2. Measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

3. Measures to ensure business continuity and resilience of producer organisations.

The COVID-19 Emergency Aid for Fair Trade was divided into three strands:

o the Fund for the Producer Partners of Forum Fairer Handel

o the Fund for the Producer Partners of Fairtrade International

o the Fund for Value Chains with the Welthungerhilfe

The established implementation structure with civil society project partners in the context of the COVID-19 Emergency Aid for Fair Trade was also adopted for the single measure Emergency Aid Food Crisis. This complementarity can contribute to a longer-term anchoring and impact on the ground. Learn more about the Emergency Aid Food Crisis here.

Coffee as a livelihood

In the western hinterland area of Kenya, not far from the shores of Lake Victoria, lies the small village of Setek. As in many other villages in this region, coffee is the main source of income for the inhabitants of Setek. The dark brown coffee powder, which can be found in every supermarket in Europe in an appealing and airtight package, begins its long journey in the coffee supply chain here in Setek as a coffee cherry on a bush.

But the cultivation of coffee in Setek has not only been valued as a source of income. Rather, it has contributed to gender equality in recent years. Supported by workshops of Fairtrade International, local women founded the initiative "Women in Coffee", which aims to improve the living and working conditions of women in coffee cultivation. After a long time, they were also able to own their own plants and participate in the yield. This led to independence and a voice in decision-making.

Just as progress was being made towards gender equality, the COVID-19 pandemic made a ordinary workflow almost impossible. In Setek, the markets had to be closed, processing of coffee cherries had to be limited, and as a result, portion of the harvest had to be inevitably destroyed. The Initiative for Fair Trade supported smallholder farmers in more than 30 countries in the Global South who were directly involved in the production of agricultural raw materials in Fair Trade supply chains and were affected by significant income losses due to the pandemic.

Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic not only endangered the health of people in Africa, Latin America and Asia – it also put the local economy to the test.

Film impressions from Kenia

Our partner Fairtrade International offers exclusive insights into the affected regions. Here, for example, from coffee farmer Caroline from Kenya. "In the past, we women were not allowed to grow coffee. They were completely dependent on their husbands. Now they can invest their own money by selling their own coffee."

What was achieved overall?

With the help of COVID-19 Emergency Aid for Fair Trade, 781 producer organizations and 1,281,737 smallholder farmers in 37 countries were reached.

Through the fund for the producer partners of Forum Fairer Handel, 73 funding applications in 16 countries were served.  More than EUR 2.5 million were raised by the affected organizations. This reached around 50,000 smallholder farmers, including more than 16,000 women, whose production ranges from mangoes in Burkina Faso, spices and tea in India to coffee and cocoa in Peru.

Producers reached through the fund for the producer partners of Fairtrade International were required to present Fairtrade certification. To implement these measures, GIZ signed a contract with Fairtrade International over EUR 8.1 million. Thereby, 683 producer organizations and over 900,000 smallholder farmers, including more than 300,000 women, were reached. In Asia, Africa and Latin America, among other things, procurement and distribution of articles for hygiene and health protection were carried out.

Fairtrade International also launched a documentary series showing the direct impact of the pandemic on smallholder communities. All episodes can be seen online through this link.

Welthungerhilfe was also involved in a total of 3 countries through projects and funding. 25 producer organizations and almost 330,000 smallholder farmers, including more than 140,000 women, were reached.

Through two grant agreements with Welthungerhilfe in Sierra Leone, amounting to more than EUR 3 million, GIZ was able to contribute to positive development on the ground. In both phases of the project, the focus was on promoting the cultivation, processing and marketing of organically produced cocoa. Almost 195,000 smallholder farmers benefited from the measures implemented, including around 86,000 women. 

In Ethiopia, Welthungerhilfe supported the cultivation and local processing of coffee. In order to maintain the coffee value chain in the Jimma region during the COVID-19 pandemic, GIZ also concluded two consecutive grant agreements with Welthungerhilfe over EUR 2 million. As a result, around 87,000 smallholder farmers were reached, including almost 44,000 women. The relevant measures included training on Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) with a focus on sustainable farm management, yield increase, processing and storage, as well as measures to improve and expand WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) systems in the villages of the project region.

Since December 2021, Welthungerhilfe also implemented a project to promote the coffee value chain in the Mahagi area in the Democratic Republic of Congo. To this end, GIZ signed a grant agreement with Welthungerhilfe over EUR 1.8 million. It supported almost 50,000 smallholder farmers, including almost 13,000 women. The focus of the project was on capacity building of the local coffee cooperative Kawa Maber.

The contract for this project was made through the SEWOH Fund for the Promotion of Innovation in Agriculture (i4Ag) and is carried out by the Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains Initiative.