• Announcement
25. March 2024
Taju Mohammednur Achal and Habtamu Seyoum Aragaw from Jimma Agricultural Research Center (JARC) © Jana Bauer/GIZ

An article by Jana Bauer

Global agricultural supply chains are complex and involve numerous actors across national borders. Challenges within the supply chain often have a variety of causes that lie at different points within but also beyond the supply chain at local, regional, or global levels. Hence, improving the sustainability of agricultural supply chains requires cooperation at all these levels and among a wide range of actors such as policy makers, private sector, and stakeholders from academia and civil society. In this, cooperation takes on different forms of partnership with different thematic foci. This holds true as well for coffee supply chains.

Within GIZ, the collaboration between the sector project Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA) and the global project AgriChains on sustainable coffee supply chains constitutes a good example on how the engagement for sustainable supply chains can look like, from fostering the production and dissemination of improved seedlings to supporting sector dialog.

Coffee is an important agricultural commodity that is grown on around 11 million hectares in over 50 countries and builds the core livelihood activity for 12.5 million coffee farmers and their families. Around 95% of these farmers produce on less than 5 hectares and are therefore considered smallholder farmers. Various constraints at production level and along the supply chain impede most of these farmers from attaining a living income. To ensure improved living conditions for producers while protecting natural resources the commitment of all actors along the supply chain is needed.

Research-based approaches for sustainable coffee production

As in other agricultural supply chains, sustainability in the coffee supply chain begins even before the beloved coffee bean is produced. It starts with the coffee plant - coffee has been cultivated in Ethiopia for centuries. The surroundings of Jimma constitute the cradle of Arabica coffee. Still, farmers face various challenges towards producing coffee sustainably and profitably. Since 1967, Jimma Agricultural Research Center (JARC) has therefore been researching and working on improved coffee varieties for Ethiopian coffee farmers. Especially in the face of a changing climate, coffee trees must withstand new climatic constraints. Altered pest infestation patterns and diseases affect the coffee quality and the productivity of the coffee trees. For producers, the rejuvenation of their coffee gardens through improved varieties thus becomes essential to achieve better incomes.

For this reason, the global project AgriChains implements the country measure Sustainability and Value Added in Agricultural Supply Chains in Ethiopia (SUVASE), which among other activities supports JARC in propagating high-quality coffee seeds and seedlings. To do so, the JARC research team uses tissue culture, hybrid steam cutting and botanical seeds.

Kasahun Chala, Advisor for rural development of the GIZ country program SUVASE, inspects a coffee seedling © Jana Bauer/GIZ
Kasahun Chala, Advisor for rural development of the GIZ country program SUVASE, inspects a coffee seedling © Jana Bauer/GIZ

“The farmers´ knowledge and skills are improved regarding coffee seeds production, nursery management and post- harvest management. Besides that, the seedlings and technologies for seed and seedling production are provided to targeted farmers. At the end of the project, we expect farmers´ income and livelihoods to be improved.”, says Taju Mohammednur Achalu, head of the project implemented together with SUVASE. He works on seed multiplication technologies and seed research. His colleague Habtamu Seyoum Aragaw works on biotechnological research and is the coordinator of the research laboratory where tissue cultures are produced. He explains: "Tissue culture is a technology to produce hybrid coffee seedlings under laboratory conditions. It allows for mass production of high-quality seedlings, which can be transplanted to the field."

In addition to propagation at the research center, two coffee nurseries are being established and handed over to rural communities to enhance income diversification. Further, JARC offers field days to provide training in nursery establishment, improved agronomic practices and seedling multiplication for extension service providers and coffee producers, especially women and youth. The seedlings are also disseminated to coffee cooperatives through existing coffee nurseries in Illubabor district.

Jana Bauer with Kasahun Chala (SUVASE), Taju Mohammednur Achalu, Project Manager Seed Multiplication Technologies and Seed Research at JARC, and Habtamu Seyoum Aragaw, Coordinator of the Plant Biotechnology Research Laboratory at JARC © Jana Bauer

Partnership-based dialog towards sustainable transformation at sector level

In February, as an INA expert on coffee, I had the opportunity to visit the JARC and my colleagues at SUVASE to learn more about the work on improved coffee seedlings for increased production levels and improved livelihoods for farmers and rural communities around Jimma. My colleague and SUVASE rural development advisor Kasahun Chala Bedada introduced me to the cooperation with JARC and the activities implemented by the GIZ-project. The visit allowed us to exchange learnings and to leverage knowledge transfer from project level to sector level, where I work with multi-stakeholder platforms at the public-private interface and with civil society.

The field trip constituted only part of my business trip to Ethiopia. The main purpose was the engagement with partners at sector level. At the beginning of February, the twentieth African Fine Coffee Conference and Exhibition took place in Addis Ababa - a trade fair and conference for producers, traders, and roasters as well as for sector actors working on sustainability in the coffee sector. As such, the conference conferred the possibility to meet with various sector stakeholders to discuss on sustainability issues that currently move the sector on the African continent and beyond. Besides discussions around strategies for compliance to the EU-regulation on deforestation-free products (EUDR), the event gave room for debates on trajectories to attaining living income for producers and rural communities, and on strategies for a thriving, ecologically friendly and socially just African coffee sector. It also gave me the opportunity to engage with partners, like the International Coffee Organization (ICO), the Inter-African Coffee Organization (IACO), the Global Coffee Platform (GCP) and others who form part of the ICO Coffee Public Private Task Force (CPPTF). The CPPTF is a multi-stakeholder platform that consists of government representatives from coffee producing and consuming countries, existing multi-stakeholder-initiatives, and representatives of the private sector. Since 2019, the INA on behalf of the BMZ has been supporting the activities of the taskforce, which aim at transforming the coffee sector towards sustainability and fairness at local and global levels. Within five technical workstreams, the taskforce fosters dialogue among members and consensus on necessary steps for coordinated action on prioritized sustainability topics. These topics constitute living-prosperous income for producers, market transparency, conducive regulatory frameworks, resilient coffee landscapes, gender equity and the inclusion of youth.

Christopher Wunderlich (Agrofuturo Global), Dr. Vanusia Nogueira (ICO), Dr. Celestin M. Gatarayiha (Inter-African Coffee Organization), Joost Backer (New Foresight), Lauren Weiss (GCP) und George Watene (GCP) at the panel "Improving Farmer Income: Experiences from Across the Globe" © Jana Bauer/GIZ

Approaches to EUDR compliance and smallholder integration

The conference constituted an important event for the SUVASE-Team as well. Besides the engagement with local and international partners and stakeholders, the team actively contributed to different sessions at the conference. Bente Kruetzfeldt, project manager at SUVASE presented the GIZ engagement in the Ethiopian coffee sector as she opened the panel discussions on strategies to comply to with the EU-Regulation on Deforestation-free products (EUDR) that took place during the Sustainability Day organized by the Rainforest Alliance. The EUDR foresees that by December 30th, 2024, operators ensure through due diligence that products placed on the EU market or exported from the European market are produced without deforestation and forest degradation after 2020 and legally. Due to the complexity of coffee supply chains that start with smallholder production, the sector strives to develop solutions that are supported by a wide range of stakeholders and that ensure continuous access to the European market for smallholders.

Strategies to guarantee compliance of these supply chains with the EUDR were therefore much discussed during the conference organized by the African Fine Coffee Association (AFCA). To offer a space for exchange among producers, SUVASE co-organized the Farmers Day together with Vuna Origin Consulting. The event allowed farmers, cooperative representatives, and other stakeholders from Ethiopia, Kenya, DR Congo, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania to engage in discussions on implications of the EUDR on coffee communities, on how to empower coffee communities for compliance to improve market access, and on incentives that drive the production of high-quality coffee.

Integrated thinking and working within GIZ

Besides close collaboration with sector actors and partners, networking and cooperation within GIZ forms an integral part of the work for sustainable agricultural supply chains.Therefore, my colleagues and I - consultants at SUVASE and INA - also met alongside the conference to identify synergies in working towards an EUDR-compliant sector and a living income for producers - who works on what, what learning experiences and tools exist and how can these be leveraged in cooperation? What is currently driving the sector at a global level and how is this being reflected in producing countries? Which local challenges and learnings from different producing countries need to be incorporated into strategies and cooperation at a global level?  Integrated thinking and working are required to find solutions to these complex challenges. As GIZ-staff, we therefore engage in regular cross-project exchanges to fulfill our role as advisors for sustainable global agricultural supply chains through networking, information sharing and exchange. This usually takes place online - but when the opportunity arises, we also meet in person to discuss activities and solutions “From shelf to field” or as this case exemplifies – “from seed(ling) to sector dialog”.