Phase 1: Diagnosis
Study the industry in the country, reading the existing reports. In most cases, there already exists a substantial body of information relating to the coffee industry in each country. As these reports can already contain recommendations for courses of action, they often constitute a useful source of information on which to base a strategic plan.
Foster the emergence of a dialogue between key industry stakeholders, from growers to processors, traders, financiers, exporters, government agricultural officials, coffee boards, research institutions, ministries, and civil society, in order to identify in a participatory manner the key constraints and challenges. This process allows then to start building a 5 – 10 year time-frame industry vision. These meetings also create the opportunity to identify what is working well, the optimum working conditions, and how they can be replicated.
We start from what is working well – rather than from what is not – as a more effective way of releasing people’s potential. We also seek to bring to the fore the tacit knowledge which exists within the industry, but which is not being accessed due to lack of channels of communication.
Phase 2: Development of a coordinated strategic plan
Set up working groups to examine key opportunities and constraints which have been identified. This may include the areas of:
- research and multiplication of seedlings
- provision of extension services
- inputs supply
- availability of credit to farmers
- organisation of farmer groups for better representation and marketing
- efficiencies of the internal marketing system
At this stage, our objective is to access some of the tacit knowledge which exists within the industry that is not being applied for its benefit. The growers usually have clear ideas on how best they may resolve the challenges which they face; exporters usually have strong views on how things may be improved. By listening to the stakeholders, and having their direct input into the process, not only is their knowledge used to benefit the industry, but they also begin to take ownership of the process of change.
Set up a stakeholders’ meeting, bringing together the different sectors of the industry, to review and discuss the findings and recommendations of the groups under the different headings. The goal of such a meeting is to agree the outline of a strategic plan for the coffee sector, and how it can be implemented. It also highlights the priorities which need to be addressed first. This stakeholders’ meeting may then become an annual event for the national coffee sector. Its purpose is then to review the effectiveness of the agreed plan’s implementation, to shed light upon the successes and failures of the previous year, and to agree a work plan for the following year. The review covers what is going on in both the social and commercial environment.
Phase 3: Implementation of the Agreed plan
The implementation of the agreed plan, based on a shared vision of where the coffee sector wants to go in the coming 5 – 7 years, constitutes a major challenge and a long-term commitment.
Within the first 12 – 18 months, we aim to establish a National Steering Committee, elected by a stakeholder meeting, and with clear terms of reference. The terms of reference of the Steering Committee are to develop the agreed plan into a detailed annual work plan, and then take this out into the coffee districts/regions. With the priorities identified in the stakeholder meeting, the committee will then be tasked to set up a detailed work programme. It will then have to liaise with the different stakeholders who will be in charge of implementing specific tasks. These latter include mainly specific activities related to accelerating multiplication of improved coffee varieties. Typically, it also involves work with inputs suppliers to promote and coordinate their action in the producing areas, so as to give farmers easier access to good quality and reliable inputs.
In the following 12 – 18 months, the formation of regional or district steering groups becomes the priority, so as to ensure that farmers are beginning to receive better services at local level. This includes extension advice from district agricultural officers, inputs supply and possibly recommendations addressing issues of savings and credit.
We find that it is pivotal to work at the national level, but there is much to be done with the farmers in the production zones. This depends on the ownership of the vision and the cooperation and motivation of the different institutions and organisations at local level which need to interface with the growers themselves to bring about the change required.
In establishing both national and local steering committees, it needs to be recognised that, as “ad hoc” committees, they do not actually have authority to direct or manage activities. This remains the responsibility of the organisations and institutions, both public and private sector. The Committees can diagnose the state of the industry and the pending needs. By identifying the critical issues and proposing priority activities, they can influence the actions taken in the field. They constitute a forum for review and act as supportive actors for the institutions involved.
Regional groups will need to include representatives of the production level stakeholders, including farmers, traders, processors and regulators. Regular meetings can greatly contribute to a greater communication, cooperation and shared vision of the sector at the local level.
These groups also provide ownership among farmers of the national plans and objectives, and give coffee its proper place on the district agendas. In recent years coffee has often been subordinated to other crops perceived to be more important (such as food production), more “modern” (such as horticulture or floriculture) or more interesting (such as spices, vanilla or other exotic plants). Coffee continues to be one of the potentially most remunerative crops for small-holders. Coffee combined with certain food crops can enhance productivity of both of the crops, and improve farmer incomes. However, in order to achieve reasonable rates of return, it is vital that productivity and quality receive the attention needed to reach consistent and remunerative levels.
In order to reach the large numbers of small-holder farmers, the government institutions, which had traditionally played that role, need to be motivated and mobilised into action. For change to be sustainable, we consider that it is not sufficient to adopt only a project approach. The time has come to up-scale these experiences. Since we aim to target long-term development, the strategy of change has also to be endorsed at the state level.