3rd African Coffee Sustainability Forum

Over 300 international participants talk sustainable coffee business

Kampala, 15 February 2013. The Minister of State for Agriculture of Uganda, Prof. Zarubabel Mijumbi Nyiira, inaugurated on Wednesday the 2013 African Coffee Sustainability Forum at the Munyonyo Conference Center in Kampala, Uganda. Now in its 3rd edition, the Forum has become a fixture in the coffee sector's calendar and is a must-attend event for a wide spectrum of stakeholders. The Forum is co-organized by the African Fine Coffees Association (AFCA) and the 4C Association and in cooperation with the Sustainable Coffee Programme powered by IDH.

The 3rd African Coffee Sustainability Forum brought together over 300 participants from major coffee-producing countries in Africa such as Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda as well as special guests from the coffee hubs of Brazil, Colombia and Vietnam; Not to mention key international representatives from the areas of coffee trade, industry, research and civil society organisations.

What set the Forum apart from similar events in the past this time round was the added focus on Building a Business Case for Sustainability for African Coffee farmers. It is true that more and more farmers recognise the need for sustainable coffee farming, especially when one considers factors such as climate change. Many are yet to experience its business benefits however, hence, often getting discouraged in their sustainability efforts. Moreover, short-term concerns of making a living often overshadow the long-term gains of implementing sustainable production practices. The Forum therefore provided the opportunity for participants to better understand how sustainable coffee farming can improve their business performance and income.

Civil Society representatives from the Hanns R. Neumann Foundation, Solidaridad and TechnoServe livened up the discussion with practical, results-oriented examples from their coffee programs in East Africa. Cross-cutting concerns such as gender equity and youth involvement in coffee production were also addressed with input from the Colombian Coffee Growers' Federation (FNC), Hivos and Dorman's Ltd. Addressing generational and gender gaps in coffee production holds a key to unlocking the vast business potential of diversified ownership along the coffee chain.

On the industry side, representatives from Mondelēz International, Nestlé and Tchibo presented their purchasing plans for sustainably-produced coffee. The three companies reiterated their strong commitment to buying verified and certified sustainable coffees and to continue investing in coffee farming communities in the future. At the same time they recognized that switching to sustainable production practices is a lengthy and costly process for farmers and that long term support from industry is needed to make it possible and economically viable.

Research institutions such as the Coffee Research Foundation (Kenya) and Jimma Agricultural Research Center (Ethiopia) presented latest findings on the role of improved coffee varieties.  The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture - IITA (Uganda) also addressed the issue of how to help especially smallholder farmers combat climate change.

Commenting on the overall success of the 3rd African Coffee Sustainability Forum, Mr. Robert Waggwa Nsibirwa, Chairman of the 4C Council and Board Member of the African Fine Coffees Association (AFCA), said he was pleased a signal had been sent out to Africa's farmers that their concerns were being noted:

 “I always say, improving yields must be the first step to improving sustainability in Africa. Barring this, farmers are locked in poverty and have no incentives for sustainable production. Today, we were able to learn from other coffee producing countries like Colombia and Vietnam where average yields are higher and sustainability more advanced. With the 4C Association as a platform and when appropriate in cooperation with IDH, we will continue to bring different actors together from farmers to coffee traders, civil society organisations and other sustainability initiatives to strengthen Africa's coffee farmers in this aspect.”

The next Forum is scheduled to take place in Burundi in February 2014.

All the presentations from the Forum can be downloaded from the Forum's blog.

Media Contacts: 

For media inquiries, please contact Verónica Pérez, 4C Communication Manager: Phone: +49 151 64940366; veronica.perez(at)4c-coffeeassociation.org 

Over 300 participants attended the 3rd African Coffee Sustainability Forum in Kampala