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news | October 25, 2016 | Yemen | Development

ACTED celebrates International Coffee Day in Yemen, the birthplace of coffee

Coffee farmers exhibit coffee samples at ACTED’s International Coffee Day Event, October 2016, Raymah Governorate.

In the midst of the ongoing war in Yemen, which has left over 14.4 million persons food insecure and 2.1 million persons malnourished (HNO 2017), farmers in the governorate of Raymah continue to harvest one of their most ancient crops: coffee.

However, for 1,600 coffee farmer families, this year is different from the last, not only because conflict lies just beyond the calm of their terraced coffee fields, but also because they have received extensive trainings in coffee production techniques provided by ACTED, with the support of EuropeAid. In celebration of the exciting progress the project is making, and in commemoration of Yemen’s proud heritage as one of the first coffee producing nations, on October 1st ACTED and participating coffee farmers held an event to commemorate International Coffee Day.

Coffee Farmers at the International Coffee Day festival gather to sample different farmer’s coffee, while in the background a photo exhibit is ongoing, October 2016, Raymah Governorate.

Yemeni coffee is prized worldwide for its distinctive flavour. In fact, many strains of the species coffea Arabica, which makes up 75% of all coffee grown, has roots in the mountains of Yemen. Despite this, Yemeni coffee production and exports are on the decline and coffee farmers are poor. The coffee governorate of Raymah for example, is one of the most underdeveloped governorates in all of Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East. To their disadvantage, these smallholder farmers have been historically unorganised and unconnected from wholesale coffee buyers, have not irrigated their coffee fields, and have implemented inefficient coffee production techniques. Amid war, coffee farmers especially struggle, facing difficulty in accessing inputs for farming and in exporting their harvest.

Coffee farmers gather to recite seasonal songs during ACTED’s International Coffee Day Celebration, October 2016, Raymah Governorate.

In an attempt to revitalise the Yemeni coffee industry and unlock its untapped potential, ACTED joined forces with EuropeAid in 2013 to implement a comprehensive project focused on the coffee value chain in Raymah governorate. The project is designed to tackle many of the problems that have held back the industry, including: water shortages, no irrigation, disorganization and a lack of economies of scale, as well as deficits in coffee harvesting, processing, and business/marketing know-how. While the onset of war in 2015 stalled project implementation for a period, it is now back in full swing. ACTED hopes the project will give Raymah strength and stability throughout the conflict and in preparation for when Yemen can look towards recovery.

ACTED has formed and trained the boards of eight Coffee Producing Associations (CPAs), which allow coffee farmers to join together and better access tools, trainings, market information, and business connections. As mentioned, ACTED is now finishing trainings, which teach farmers how to plant, harvest, dry, husk, grade and sort their coffee more efficiently. ACTED will soon distribute tools and coffee drying beds so farmers can put their new knowledge into practice.

Coffee farmers exhibit coffee samples at ACTED’s International Coffee Day Event, October 2016, Raymah Governorate.

To solve the problem of water access, Water User Associations, developed by ACTED, are implementing large water irrigation projects, with nine already close to completion. Shortly, ACTED will begin to turn its attention to the market side of coffee business, with exchange visits, workshops, and support to CPAs in developing business plans.

To see some photos of ACTED’s activities so far, visit here!

To mark International Coffee Day, on October 1st ACTED joined together with two CPAs in Al Jafariyah District for a festival. The celebration began with speeches from representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Head of Irrigation Department at the Raymah Governor’s Office, and the head of the Ministry of Education for Raymah Governorate. The leadership of the two CPAs then gave testimonials highlighting the problems facing coffee farmers and the successes of ACTED’s activities thus far in the governorate. For the remainder of the event, those in attendance had a chance to enjoy a photo exhibition of project activities, taste coffee samples presented by the different farmers, and participate in poetry readings and singing seasonal songs around themes of coffee farming. Finally, as a parallel activity, ACTED coffee trainers planted coffee trees together with children at local schools.

On October 27th, at Majnoon Qahwa in Amman, ACTED will continue the celebration of coffee farmers in Yemen and the important work ACTED and EuropeAid are doing in their support. For more information on this exciting event, From Mountain to Market, visit here.

Coffee farmers exhibit coffee samples at ACTED’s International Coffee Day Event, October 2016, Raymah Governorate.