Tuesday 23 July 2024
  • La Cimbali

ILO field visits lay the ground for revitalizing Yemen’s ancient coffee tradition

Ahead of implementing a new project to revive Yemen’s coffee production sector, the ILO is meeting with farmers in key coffee producing areas, to learn about the challenges they face and the support they need in order to revitalize the country’s vital coffee cultivation and production sector

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SANAA, Yemen – Yemen ’s coffee industry, traditionally renowned for its quality, has faced significant challenges since the conflict erupted in the country in 2005, with declining cultivation threatening the livelihoods of coffee farmers and producers across the country. With an unsupportive environment, the export potential of Yemeni coffee remains underutilized.

In response, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is stepping in with a new programme aimed at revitalizing coffee cultivation and production and promoting competitiveness and decent work along the supply chain.

The programme builds on the ILO’s past successes in Yemen through the “Supporting Resilient Livelihoods, Food Security and Climate Adaptation in Yemen, Joint Programme (ERRY III)” programme.

It seeks to promote decent work, enhance productivity and competitiveness, establish linkages with international markets, and improve working conditions within the coffee sector. The initiative also adopts a conflict-sensitive and peace-responsive approach, recognizing the importance of stability in a fragile context.

The ILO will collaborate with a variety of stakeholders, including the government, social partners, farmers, communities, producers, cooperatives, and private companies in the different tiers of the coffee supply chain, and with international buyers to support the upgrading of coffee production and develop an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable supply chain. The programme will begin with a 6-month pilot project.

The ILO has initiated field visits to coffee plantation areas in both the Sana’a and Lahj governorates, both coffee-producing regions. During these visits, ILO representatives will engage with coffee farmers, community leaders, farmer groups and cooperatives. The visits seek to understand the key challenges and barriers faced by coffee cultivators and producers, including issues related to harvesting and post-harvest processes.

During a preliminary field visit conducted by an ILO team in the Yafea area of the Lahj Governorate, farmers and other stakeholders interviewed by the ILO highlighted several critical concerns. They noted that coffee cultivation has been affected not only by the protracted crisis but also by climate changes, which has altered the volume and timing of rainy seasons. Many coffee cultivators also struggle due to water scarcity, and with low market prices offered and additional costs by intermediaries.

In addition, qat cultivation poses a strong competition to coffee, as it is profitable and resistant to drought. Farmers also lack access to technology, and struggle with the overuse of insecticides and the spread of disease, which affects coffee quality and quantity.

Women actively participate in coffee cultivation, but their contributions need better recognition and support. In addition, child labour is rife in the sector. Those interviewed during the field visit also noted that cooperatives play a limited role and suffer from weak capacity. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which play an important role in the supply chain, seal green coffee beans to foreign markets, with limited processing, such as roasting and grinding, suffer from many obstacles including insufficient post-harvest processing and manufacturing skills, unavailability of modern equipment and lack of access to finance.

The ILO plans further field visits in the Lahj and Sana’a Governorates, aiming to gather additional insights and practical suggestions from stakeholders ahead of further developing and implementing the new project to restore the sector’s vitality and enhance the resilience of coffee producing communities.

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