Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

25 Million Coffee Farmers and Their Food Security

How many hands touched the coffee beans that went into your cup this morning?  Especially if that coffee bean was high quality Arabica, it’s likely that the number is well above 10, and there’s a very good chance those beans began their journey on a small farm in Africa or Central America where USAID invests in programs that support coffee farmers as a way to reduce poverty and hunger.

It should be no surprise that many USAID Missions support an activity that involves coffee. Over 25 million people make their living from the coffee value chain—smallholder farmers, pickers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) like traders and agro-processors, and many others. To help the Feed the Future Initiative succeed in lifting people out of poverty in places like Ethiopia, Uganda, and Honduras, USAID and its partners will do well to help coffee farmers in these places grow more coffee of ever-increasing quality and sell it for higher prices, all while conserving the many resources under their stewardship.

In USAID’s Bureau for Food Security, a small team of us are focused on helping our USAID colleagues around the world with their coffee sector programming, and in building alliances with the private sector to support that work.  We like coffee not just because it tastes good, but because of the urgency shown by the coffee industry in addressing many of the issues Feed the Future and USAID care about the most: issues such as farmer food security and nutrition, extreme weather and climate challenges, gender equality, and smallholder access to finance.  

If the development community is going to tackle these issues in the coffeelands—and do it sustainably—our private sector partners, representing companies large and small, up and down the value chain, will need to be our full collaborators. After all, a farmer could grow a wonderful bourbon coffee with overtones of chocolate and raspberries, but if no one’s around to buy it and export it and ship it…

This blog post is the first in a series of commentaries on coffee sector support programming around the globe.  We’d like to use the wide reach and knowledgeable community of Agrilinks users to explore some of the success factors and shared challenges related to the development of coffee communities around the world.  

Some of the topics we hope to cover in the future include:

  • A landmark partnership, under the banner of World Coffee Research, featuring joint programs between dozens of coffee companies and USAID, designed to drive innovations in research on new disease-resistant varieties. 
  • The importance of innovative finance tools to allow coffee farmers in Latin America to respond to a crisis brought about by aging plants and a deadly plant pathogen and exacerbated by a changing climate.
  • Why a number of post-conflict countries are turning to coffee as a way to restart economic activity in rural areas, earn the country foreign exchange, and revive hope for a better way of life.
  • And others to come.

We look forward to engaging with the Agrlinks community on these types of topics in the coming months.