Coffee Initiative

Adoption of GAP and rehabilitation programs lead to production uplift in East Africa in spite of ageing trees

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  • R&R type Grant-based rehabilitation1
  • Countries East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania)
  • Costs Approx. USD 47 million in 2008 and USD 18 million in 20122
  • Dates 2008-2016

Project Context

  • The 5 million SHFs across East Africa have (on average) 50% lower yields than those in Central America. The primary reason is the lack of adoption of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).
  • Rehabilitation alongside GAP can enable farmers to reach good levels of productivity, even for trees above the productivity peak. Renovation is not always needed.

Objectives, Activities, and Results

  • The Coffee Initiative developed the Farm College program. The Coffee Initiative recruited farmer trainers, mostly daughters and sons of local coffee farmers, to deliver training on GAP and on rehabilitation practices to farmers. Each farmer trainer was responsible for training between nine and 13 groups of 30 or more farmers. Every training group selected a member who volunteered his/her land as a demonstration plot.
  • The monthly lessons included sessions on pruning techniques, rejuvenation, pest and disease management, coffee planting, and the safe use of pesticides.
  • In total, 139,609 farmers were trained.
  • Value creation: increased yields of least productive SHFs and improved livelihoods.
  • Value capture: the program finances a public good. The value is yet to be captured by the financers.

Project Context

Management of the three R&R Components


Third party companies

Challenges faced
Few farmers use fertilizers, and lack knowledge on how to use them correctly (amount, timing, and type of fertilizers).

The Coffee Initiative commissioned soil and leaf surveys to better understand the existing soil conditions and nutrient needs in each country, allowing the development of localized nutrition recommendations included in Farm College trainings. Private agro-input suppliers were supported to adopt recommendations and linkages to cooperatives.


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to TechnoServe.

Challenges faced
More investment is needed in the sector, butthe private sector is reluctant to engage alone.

The project aims to create partnerships betweenbusiness, public sector, and NGOs. For example, Nib Bank(Ethiopia) agreed to continueproviding working capital tocooperatives when the Coffee Initiative ended on the conditionthat the coffee unions hire business advisors to provide TA.


The Coffee Initiative

Challenges faced
Farmers have low access to TA and may bereluctant to implement new practices.

The Coffee Initiative developed a decentralized training program, the “Farm College program”: they recruited full-time Farmer Trainers to deliver training to groups of farmers. This structure enables Farmer Trainers to make visits and follow up with individual farmers.

(1) Philanthropic rehabilitation is part of one of the three strategies of the Coffee Initiative. The two other strategies are the assistance of farmers in the establishment of coffee processing stations and the strengthening of the overall value chain to enhance the competitiveness of the East African Specialty coffee.

(2) This amount was mobilized for the whole project and not specifically for the rehabilitation program. Sources: Coffee Initiative Final Report, TechnoServe – Dalberg interviews.

(3) TechnoServe and GCP, Economic Viability of Coffee Farming, 2017.

Lessons Learned

  • Rehabilitation is sometimes preferable to renovation
    Rehabilitation is less risky, results are faster and requires less investment than renovation. Whenever old trees can maintain productivity via intensive rehabilitation, this option should be preferred over renovation.

  • Adoption of a set of yield enhancing practices is essential to support R&R
    After the training, 56% of participating farmers had adopted at least 50% of the agronomic techniques from a baseline of 15%.

  • Farmers sometimes have to “See it to believe it”
    Each farmer group elected a “Focal Farmer” who provided a venue for trainings and a 40-tree demonstration plot. This approach proved to be effective as farmers immediately practiced the techniques they learned.

Learn more and get involved

There is a lot of work to be done to ensure the long-term supply of coffee from countries where the crop has long shaped the social and economic fabric. Learning to extend the life of their trees and improve yields helps farmers stabilize annual production and in turn, income, while the rest of the world benefits from a steady supply of quality coffee. Continue on to learn more about the immediate attention and action that is required to make this a reality.