Burundi’s coffee sector set for recovery courtesy of new initiative by USDA, TechnoServe

Uganda coffee export

BURUNDI – Coffee farmers in Burundi are set to benefit from the newly launched Burundi Better Coffee Initiative undertaken by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and international non-profit TechnoServe.

The five-year program, focused on will boosting the livelihoods and resilience of 60,000 coffee-farming households, will be undertaken in partnership with the Kahawatu Foundation, the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), and the Burundi Development Agency.

The initiative is set to address key challenges facing the coffee value chain including climate change, poor processing practices and limited market, with the target of fostering US$32.8 million in annual coffee sales.

“Throughout Africa and beyond, we’ve seen that working with farmers and businesses across the ecosystem can help deliver improved livelihoods and resilience for coffee-growing families.

“We are excited to partner with the USDA to bring this approach to Burundi and help farmers gain greater incomes, stability, and resilience for themselves and their families,” said Carole Hemmings, Global Coffee Sustainability Director for TechnoServe

According to TechnoServe, Burundi is ideally suited for high-quality Arabica coffee production that could generate strong, recurring income for thousands of farming families.

Farm elevations between 1,500 and 2,000 meters, plentiful rainfall, and a tropical savannah biome combine to create exceptional growing conditions, and coffee accounts for 80% of the country’s exports.

However, the country’s coffee sector faces numerous challenges including poor soil health and inadequate tree maintenance resulting in low and inconsistent crop yields.

Production is also threatened by climate change, which is raising the frequency of both drought and heavy rainfall, leading to increased soil erosion.

Meanwhile, poor processing practices reduce the quality and price of much of Burundi’s coffee, and the country’s cumbersome business environment makes it less attractive to global exporters.

As a result, many farming families earn less than US$500 per year, well below the poverty line.

Women and youth are among the most economically vulnerable groups, as their participation in the coffee sector is limited by factors such as lack of decision-making power and lack of control over income, and lack of access to their own plots of land.

The Burundi Better Coffee Initiative will work across the country’s coffee ecosystem to address these challenges.

Under the program, Kahawatu Foundation will be tasked with delivery of agronomy training using TechnoServe’s proven Coffee Farm College curriculum and methodology.

This training will promote low-cost, regenerative agriculture practices for farm management, enhance farmers’ basic business skills, and boost production of complementary crops.

The program will also provide farmers with access to lime, an essential input to improve plant nutrition and soil health, while also working with Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) to expand farmers’ access to finance.

In order to improve the quality and value of the country’s coffee, the initiative will work with coffee washing stations to improve their processing and ensure compliance with quality, environmental, and social sustainability standards.

Export prices among participating processors are expected to rise by as much as 20% as a result of the improved quality and sustainability.

The Burundi Better Coffee Initiative will also promote a business model for local enterprises to provide essential services to coffee washing stations.

The project will further create linkages with global coffee buyers and exporters and work with Burundi’s government to build a supportive regulatory environment.

From the targeted 60,000 coffee farming households, 30% will comprise of women and 30% youth, and increase farm income by over 40%, bringing households out of poverty and on a trajectory towards living income levels.

To promote climate resilience and sustainability, farmers will convert 7,714 ha to improved, regenerative management.

The program will mark the first time TechnoServe has worked in Burundi.

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