CFC project to help build capacity in East Africa

April 1, 2009 – At its annual conference in Kigali, Rwanda in February, the Eastern African Fine Coffees Association (EAFCA) announced that it had secured US$5 million in funding from the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) to build certification and verification capacity in the region.

As Robert Waggwa Nsibirwa explains, coffee plays a vital role in sustainable development in many developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Not only do countries such as Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda depend on coffee for a large portion of their export earnings, but coffee also provides a vital source of income to several million coffee growers, farm workers and their families.

This being the case, in 2004 The Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) and ICO funded a study conducted by the Eastern African Fine Coffee Association (EAFCA) regarding coffee certification/ verification initiatives in Eastern Africa [CFC-Ref-No 04/19 of 2004].

The study recommended the training of smallholder coffee growers in the various elements of the sustainability schemes, noting that the training should be conducted in simple terms and in local languages, and that there must therefore be well trained trainers and extension officers at all levels of the coffee chain.

The ICO endorsed a preliminary project for financing by CFC in line with their policy for a ‘sustainable coffee economy’ which was conducted by the IFCC and published in July 2005. The report recommends, amongst other things, the development of certification/ verification capacity in East Africa, in line with modern thinking on sustainable coffee. In May 2007, the Executive Board of ICO and the ICO Council approved the project and recommended it for to the CFC for funding.

The project made possible by the funding from CFC aims to build coffee certification and verification capacity in the EAFCA member countries of Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The programme will be implemented over five years, and will focus primarily on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP; increasing production of quality coffee; agronomy; and the social aspects of growing sustainable coffee.

It was described by representatives of EAFCA as a “paradigm shift” in preparing East African coffee farmers for certification and verification, the main aim being to improve farmers’ earnings from coffee by enabling them to gain access to the specialty market. At the end of the five year project, farmers will have the opportunity to choose whether they want their coffee to be certified, and, if they do, will have provided them with the means to do so.

For more information, see the forthcoming May 2009 issue of Coffee & Cocoa International.