BUJUMBURA, Burundi – The 4th annual African Coffee Sustainability Forum took place in Bujumbura, Burundi, on 12 February 2014.
Under the theme “Sustainable Coffee Farming as a Business for African Coffee Farmers: Learnings, challenges & joint efforts for solutions”, the Forum brought together 150 stakeholders to address the key factors influencing the adoption of sustainability practices by African coffee farmers.
In his opening speech, Burundi’s Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Mr. Boniface Mwikomo remarked: “The ‘Business Case for Sustainability’ no longer needs to be proved, provided that the activities that lead to sustainability are helping the coffee farmers to improve their productivity and the quality of their coffee. This in turn should result in safer and more stable revenues for them”.
Co-organised by the 4C Association, the African Fine Coffees Association (AFCA), the Sustainable Coffee Programme powered by IDH and Café Africa, the Forum is now a fixture on the coffee sector’s calendar and is a must-attend event for anyone focusing on sustainable coffee in Africa.
Robert W. Nsibirwa, Chairman of the 4C Association and Board Member of AFCA, confirms this: “Now in its 4th edition, the Forum has become the place to discuss and address the pressing issues undermining the sustainable development of the African coffee sector.”
Considering the focus of this year’s Forum, it was positive to note the emphasis the audience placed on the potential of considerably increasing African coffee production. To do so, productivity in coffee farming needs to be increased thus becoming a more viable business case for coffee farming households.
All participants stressed the need of a broad sector collaboration including governments, coffee producers, private sector, and NGOs, putting the farming family livelihood at the centre of all efforts.
This idea was also emphasised by Mr. Nsibirwa: “In the African context, where yields are quite low, the very first step to make coffee farming a sustainable business for smallholders is to support them in increasing their productivity.
For this to happen, all stakeholders need to unite efforts to provide the much needed support to farmers. This Forum is bringing them all around one table and taking their ideas and applying them in the African coffee fields”.
Ted van der Put, Director and Executive Board member of the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), commented: “This year, the African Sustainability Forum has stimulated some great discussion on the core sustainability issues present in the African coffee sector.
IDH hopes that it’s recently published business case studies on Uganda and Ethiopia can be used to stimulate meaningful investments in the sector, particularly in the development of a national sustainability curriculum”.
As participants represent trade, industry, research and civil society organisations from major coffee-producing countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, a unique feature of the Forum was the interactive working group session. In these parallel groups, action plans addressing the business practices of coffee farmers, climate change and gender were developed and later presented to the Forum’s audience.
A key message was that the proven benefits of providing capacity building to farmers on good agricultural practices can be even more rewarding if they follow a gender-sensitive approach.
The Report from the Forum, including conclusions and action plans, will be available to download from http://www.sustainableafricancoffee.org/.
Source: 4C Association