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Reviving high quality coffee production in South Sudan

©TechnoServe

Background

The first major coffee company to re-enter South Sudan after its independence in 2011, Nespresso discovered high quality coffee Robusta with unique aromas and very promising potential. Eager to bring this exceptional coffee to consumers worldwide, while helping farmers and their families secure new sources of sustainable business, Nespresso partnered with non-profit organization TechnoServe and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Cooperatives and Rural Development of the Republic of South Sudan to revive high-quality coffee production in the country. Implementation of the company’s AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program is thus contributing to economic development in South Sudan, with Nespresso the first company to offer coffee from the country following its independence.

South Sudan has a long coffee history, but its coffee industry was largely destroyed during years of civil war. Considered part of the cradle of coffee, South Sudan is one of the only places in the world where both Arabica and Robusta coffee grows in the wild. However, the coffee industry has had to be rebuilt from the ground up--trees had to be replanted, and smallholder farmers required basic access to inputs and technical support. The infrastructure to support coffee commercialization, such as the creation of marketing channels, also needed to be developed.

The opportunity to have a positive impact in South Sudan is significant. The country’s economy is heavily dependent on oil and foreign aid, and coffee is its first agricultural export to Europe. Coffee has the potential to facilitate a “grassroots” form of wealth generation and economic development, in contrast to the country’s centralized oil sector. It is also providing much-needed income for thousands of farmers and their families living in coffee communities, and has the potential to play an important role in helping to diversify the economic base of the country.

 

 

With this ambitious project, we wish to bring our consumers a new exceptional coffee experience, directly from the cradle of coffee. The high quality Robusta we have found in South Sudan has truly unique aromas. South Sudan is the only place in the world where wild coffee, Arabica and Robusta, grows. Coffee originates from this area.

Jean-Marc Duvoisin, CEO, Nestlé Nespresso SA

About the revival of the coffee sector in South Sudan

Nespresso’s investment since 2011 of over US$ 2.5 million in reviving the production of high-quality South Sudanese coffee demonstrates the potential for commercial coffee production in the country. As part of the expansion of the AAA Program in Africa, Nespresso aims to have invested over US$ 3.4 million in the project by the end of 2016.

The program focuses on improving yields and coffee quality through the establishment of central wet mills and by providing training to farmers to improve their agricultural practices. At the same time, commercial channels are being developed to enable the sale and export of South Sudanese coffee.

Focusing on supporting farmers in Yei, where existing coffee production is concentrated, the partners have established a coffee replanting program and agronomy and quality training support for local coffee growers. The program also includes the identification of local entrepreneurs for coffee marketing services and leaf and soil surveys for the development of a soil improvement plan for coffee production in the Yei region.

 

Since 2013, we have accomplished many firsts in the history of South Sudan:

  1. First coffee cooperatives registered in South Sudan. The project supported the organisation and registration of three coffee cooperatives in the region of Yei, the first of their kind in South Sudan.
  2. First coffee wet mills in history of South Sudan. Coffee processing businesses, known as coffee wet mills, which transform the cherries picked by farmers into parchment coffee, are essential to produce high quality coffee. During 2013, the project supported each of the cooperatives to construct a coffee wet mill.
  3. First fully washed coffee ever produced in South Sudan. The cooperative leaders were supported to write a business plan and staff were trained and coached during the harvest season on operations of their new coffee wet mills. Previously, coffee was only processed with the dry method.
  4. First ever phytosanitary certificate for South Sudan. The project supported the Ministry of Agriculture to create a template phytosanitary certificate, a document required for the international trade of agricultural produce. The first phytosanitary certificate was issued by the Ministry of Agriculture for the first shipment of coffee that was exported to Nespresso in July 2013.
  5. First coffee ever exported from South Sudan. A shipment of 1.8 metric tonnes of green bean coffee airfreighted to Nespresso in 2013 was the first export of coffee from South Sudan. The first export by land of coffee from South Sudan took place in July 2014, when 10 tonnes of parchment coffee was transported to Uganda. There, the green coffee was hulled and screened to meet Nespresso quality requirements before being sent to Nespresso production centres in Switzerland.
  6. First ever non-oil export from South Sudan to Europe. An official in the Ministry of Agriculture reported that the shipment of coffee to Nespresso in 2013 was the first ever non-oil export from South Sudan to Europe.
  7. First exporter identified and trained. A local South Sudanese company was identified to provide the service of exporting coffee from South Sudan to Uganda. The company imports packaged food products from Uganda and thus had the relevant experience for handling coffee and dealing with customs requirements.
  8. First coffee export tax revenues to government. The county government in Yei collected export tax revenue from the coffee export in 2014, the first time the tax has been collected on coffee.
  9. First legal processing and export of foreign coffee through Uganda. While coffee has long been smuggled from the Democratic Republic of Congo into Uganda for re-export, this was the first legal importation of coffee into Uganda.

 

 

Progress and achievements

Through Nespresso’s and TechnoServe’s collaboration, the first five coffee cooperatives of South Sudan have been established. Six wet mills to process the coffee have been established in the Yei region. Central wet mills and the associated centralized processing approach play a key role in improving the quality of the coffee and ensuring its distinctive aroma profile. Thanks to this processing method, Nespresso can buy high-quality washed Robusta, a new category of coffee in South Sudan, while at the same time taking advantage of the intrinsic quality of the local Robusta coffee plants that have survived the long war period. The central wet mills also bring benefits to the farmers, such as the reduction of labour and time-intensive work.

©TechnoServe

Nespresso has managed to source several tons of South Sudanese washed Robusta parchment coffee in 2013, 2014, 2015 and again in 2016. The quality levels have proven excellent. The brand launched the first coffee from South Sudan as a Limited Edition in France in October 2015.

The coffee cooperatives receive support to enable farmer mobilization, registration and quality processing, as well as training to establish a well-structured and well-managed coffee cooperative. The farmers in each cooperative have elected leaders and oversight committees to establish strong governance. The cooperatives have been helped to create financial transparency sheets to ensure the provision of clear financial performance data.

Coffee cooperatives are responsible for collecting coffee cherries from the farmers, and perform specific post-harvesting practices to produce parchment coffee. They play a major role in building a commercial coffee value chain. Once processed, the coffee is then transported to Uganda to be hulled and screened to meet Nespresso quality requirements before being exported to Europe.

As part of the project, TechnoServe, on behalf of Nespresso, is providing training to smallholder farmers to create coffee nurseries, plant coffee trees and improve agricultural practices to increase their productivity and the quality of their coffee. Farmer trainers have been recruited amongst the local community and have been taught to deliver agronomy trainings. Some 1,000 farmers have participated in agronomy field training sessions covering topics such as coffee planting, composting, mulching and nursery establishment since their launch in August 2015. Over 700 of them are formally registered in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program. This number will continue increasing as additional farmers join the trainings over time. Several coffee nurseries have also been set up.

A total of 24 cooperative leaders and wet mill staff have been trained in coffee processing and SMS bookkeeping. In addition, all cooperative leaders have participated in cooperative governance training. Sustainability overview training has been provided to 38 wet mill staff and cooperative leaders at their wet mills, with a self-assessment of sustainability mandatory practices conducted as part of the training. A marked improvement has been noted in record-keeping skills and cooperative leaders have a better understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

Nespresso and TechnoServe have laid the foundation for the resurgence of a vibrant, inclusive coffee industry in South Sudan that will create much positive impact in the country. They will continue to support the established coffee cooperatives by providing training on coffee quality and business skills and develop the marketing channels for coffee. They will also continue increasing over time the number of farmers taking part in the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program in the country.

In South Sudan, it’s been exciting to partner with rural communities and Nespresso to start the work of building a coffee industry that could provide a sustainable source of income for 50,000 families in the future. When I talk to farmers, they all share the dream of growing coffee along with their food crops to provide much needed cash to pay for school fees and other basic needs. But infrastructure to process and export the coffee is needed to make this a reality.

Paul Stewart, Regional Director Coffee Initiative, TechnoServe

 

©TechnoServe

Next steps

In addition to continuing to support the coffee revival project through training and infrastructure development themselves, Nespresso and TechnoServe have made significant progress in attracting additional funding from private and public donors, with the aim of scaling up the program to reach several thousand farmers in the next ten years.

As announced in April 2016, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is joining forces with Nespresso and TechnoServe to support South Sudan’s coffee farmers through an investment of $3.18 million for three years. USAID’s contribution will help expand the existing initiative to support a thriving and inclusive coffee sector in South Sudan by increasing scale and ensuring lasting impact. The funding injection will also allow the program to be extended to new communities, allowing more farmers in South Sudan to benefit from the revival of their country’s coffee industry.

The initiative aims to triple coffee incomes and improve household resilience. By 2019, the program will have trained 1,500 South Sudanese farmers, of whom at least 25 percent will be women, and have helped establish nine cooperative-owned wet mills.

 

Testimonials

What some South Sudanese farmers have said about the project so far:

I have seen that there is great change within the community. We want to produce the right quality. People now have hope. We will be able to pay school fees for children and in the end develop the country.

Joseph Malish Thomas, farmer and leader of the Inutu cooperative, South Sudan

Thanks to TechnoServe and Nespresso, which supported setting up a wet mill, it has given me, as a woman, less hard work – especially hulling [removing coffee beans from dried cherries]. I was using a grinding stone or a mortar; but now, we are using the wet mill for processing.

Hellena Atiku, farmer from Inutu Cooperative, South Sudan

When TechnoServe started to come here and farmers heard how much they can make from coffee, it has awakened them.

Cosmas, chairman of the Inutu cooperative, South Sudan

The existence of the Program in South Sudan has helped us recover the coffee trees we had lost during the war; and since we started maintaining our trees and delivering to the wet mills our lives have completely changed. We can now afford to take our children to good schools and meet the basic needs of the family. This wouldn’t have been possible without that technical support. I plan to plant more coffee trees next season because I want to buy a car and build a decent house for my family. Nespresso and TechnoServe have strengthened us and taught us to be self-reliant.

Daniel Lomoro, South Sudanese farmer

We can also see that it can lift the family, lift the nation and can bring good things. One will not be poor as before. The poverty is reducing, and you will have a better life. So we advise that everyone should plant coffee for the future to uplift the nation.

Nicholas Taban Solomon, South Sudanese farmer

The farmers became so happy. There was no market, but now they have a market. At any time, you [can] take the cherries directly and get the money. In the future, if all goes well, the farmers will grow.

Richard Bida Augustin, South Sudanese farmer

 

The project also hires local agronomists to help train the farmers, including many women:

Being a AAA agronomist has built my confidence…I thought that women and youth like me couldn’t plant coffee. Now, I don’t go to my father or mother to ask for money to buy soap; I am the one helping myself and now I can ride a motorcycle by myself.

Rejina Aba Justin, South Sudanese AAA agronomist, age 23

 

 

 

 

     

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