How Coffee Kids impacted youth in coffee regions
For six years, from 2015 to 2021, the Coffee Kids program has been a lighthouse program for Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung’s youth work. It used an innovative threefold approach of Training, Mentoring and Financing with the aim to unleash the potentials of young people and make them peers and supporters among each other:
Judith Masumbuko is a farmer trainer in Tanzania. Over time, Judith and her husband Samson have become role models in their community and promote gender equality and the benefits of joint household planning and decision making. They were trained to counsel and encourage other households to adopt the principles of gender equality by conducting household visits and by giving personal accounts. They used to have one acre to grow both coffee and food but now they farm three acres and expanded their enterprises accordingly. First they bought a motorbike to transport their coffee harvests to the cooperative. Today, the couple farms coffee, sunflower, and groundnuts, does poultry and goat keeping and keeps a small retail shop.
In Tanzania and Honduras female youth made up the majority of partakers, accounting for 57% and 64% of program beneficiaries respectively, while in Guatemala 48% of participants were young women.
Why Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung is believing in the power of youth
Breaking Stereotypes and Challenging Conventions
Traditional perceptions of farming often cast it as a labor-intensive and low-profit occupation, leading to a decline in interest among young people. However, in smallholder coffee growing communities, a new wave of young farmers is emerging, driven by a passion to challenge these conventions. They recognize the immense potential of coffee farming as an avenue for entrepreneurship and social impact.
Harnessing Innovation and Technology
Youth in coffee regions are harnessing the power of innovation and technology to reshape the agricultural landscape. With access to information and resources, they are adopting sustainable farming practices, improving crop productivity, and enhancing quality. From leveraging precision agriculture techniques to utilizing mobile apps for market analysis and connecting with global buyers, young farmers are at the forefront of the digital revolution in agriculture.
Community Building and Knowledge Exchange
The power of youth extends beyond individual achievements. Young farmers are actively engaged in community building and knowledge exchange initiatives. They participate in farmer cooperatives, where they share experiences, exchange best practices, and collectively address challenges. By fostering collaboration and unity, these youth-led initiatives enhance the overall resilience and sustainability of coffee-growing communities.
Empowering Gender Equality
In many coffee-growing regions, traditional gender roles have limited the participation of women in farming activities. However, the power of youth is breaking these barriers. Young women are stepping up as coffee farmers, challenging stereotypes, and playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of their communities. With their fresh perspectives and innovative approaches, they are making significant contributions to the coffee industry while championing gender equality.
Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Stewardship
The power of youth is driving a shift towards sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship in coffee-growing communities. Young farmers recognize the need to protect natural resources, conserve biodiversity, and combat climate change. They are implementing agroforestry practices, adopting organic farming methods, and promoting shade-grown coffee, which not only ensures ecological balance but also enhances coffee quality and marketability.
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Training, Mentoring and Financing
The Coffee Kids program adopted a proven approach consisting of training, mentoring and financing. Training and mentoring focused on both personal and professional development, the latter including entrepreneurial knowledge as well as commercial aspects of coffee production and the coffee value chain and other agricultural and non-agricultural opportunities for self-employment of rural youth.
In Guatemala, Alejandro Herrera Cruz joined one of Coffee Kids’ youth initiatives in 2018. Its workshops were a turning point him, and allowed him to discover his creativity, discipline, and competitiveness. Hands-on training and capacity building introduced Alejandro to coffee roasting, brewing, and packaging. Three years later he had developed a variety of products made from coffee or coffee pulp. These include Coffee Pulp Soda, Coffee Beer, Coffee Jam’ and roasted Coffee from his home region. Today he sells his products to other coffee shops locally and is even exporting coffee. In this and many other ways Coffee Kids improved the lives of nearly 900 youth and young adults in rural coffee-growing areas in Guatemala, Honduras and Tanzania.
Occupational training within the coffee context took off through developing vocational training plans in order to study and/or improve professional skills such as business management, record keeping and product traceability methods. Participants who were joining a revolving fund scheme were taught how to manage such funds. Selected training sessions focused specifically on the contribution of women in the coffee value chain. The youth groups continued their traditional education through Farmer Field Schools (FFS) including subjects like Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). These practices include digging of water trenches, planting of improved coffee varieties, application of mulching techniques as well as production and application of organic fertilizers.
Outside the coffee framework, the Coffee Kids program promoted improved household nutrition, food security and production systems, and provided education on climate change. Some young people started gardens to grow radish, coriander, mustard seed, beans and pumpkins.
Personal development topics included learning to recognise one's own skills, leadership training, raising awareness of family responsibilities and learning decision-making methods. In Tanzania Coffee Kids helped young people to diversify their income by growing various crops including vanilla. Vanilla seedlings were provided as well as special farm management trainings and market linkages. Others were enabled to kick-start vegetable production by adopting irrigation farming methods.
Mentoring included trainings on leadership skills to build confidence among young women leaders to be able to undertake their responsibilities effectively in their groups. In Tanzania the youth received family planning trainings which motivated them to practice joint decision making on household matters related to family health and planning.
In Guatemala, his new life and career has not only given Alejandro a number of great opportunities. Nowadays a collection of youths volunteer to support his business and pursue entrepreneurial opportunities thanks to his guidance.
Financialaspects of the Coffee Kids projects on one hand concentrated on setting up revolving funds. These activities often received funding from complementary programs to enable young people or youth groups to put up their businesses and to make these sustainable and resilient. Among other things, the revolving funds enabled participants to kick-start small businesses in poultry farming, food vending, fishing, clothing shops, beekeeping (honey sales) and the production of handicrafts.
The second overarching task of financing was to promote a culture of private money-saving by founding youth self-savings groups. Groups were formed customarily including ten members, with each youth saving between $4 USD to $6.5 USD each month. This enhanced the entrepreneurial capabilities as well as the economic clout and resilience of the young entrepreneurs significantly.
Additionally, half of the Tanzanian beneficiaries opened individual bank accounts. This enabled them to improve their business operations, enhance their access to financial services and use adequate financial management systems.
Participation of and Mutual Reassurance amongst Coffee Kids
In order to boost the group consciousness, participation and to reinforce lessons already learned Coffee Kids organized exchange tours in Honduras and Tanzania. These further motivated youth to participate in coffee related economic activities. The young people were invited to explore different opportunities within the coffee value chain (such as coffee cuppers, baristas, coffee roasting services, among others). The exchange tours included visits to coffee research centres where the youth learned about quality process, traceability, and business administration. A Coffee Camp in Honduras dealt with a large variety of topics including coffee markets and the coffee value chain (coffee shops and suppliers of inputs and equipment). The young people were connected to coffee shops and other companies to make business contacts and to demonstrate their own entrepreneurial ideas and activities.
However, exchange tours were not restricted to the coffee value chain. In Tanzania study tours and visits facilitated by Coffee Kids supported youth in gaining various skills such as producing clean cooking stoves, paper briquettes, biopesticides and simple irrigation pumps.
Empowerment and Entrepreunerial skills
HRNS is satisfied that the Coffee Kids program created 12 robust youth groups. Some of them jointly run small businesses but the majority of young people started their own small trades. Close to 350 small enterprises were created under the Coffee Kids banner, which are expected to provide the youth with a stable and decent income. To boost all these start-ups, Coffee Kids has distributed over US$75,000 in seed funding.
Growing up and bigger
Coffee Kids merged into the larger context of the global HRNS youth work. And many learnings from Coffee Kids continue to be implemented in other HRNS youth projects. Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung will continue to support and accompany them through its continued presence in the respective regions and the implementation of further projects.
During its six years of existence Coffee Kids continuously researched and created innovative programmatic approaches that are successfully implemented in other HRNS projects today. The program operated as a catalyst for introducing new ways of working with donors and partners, and it has brought a new dynamic spirit and different culture to HRNS. Consequently, ending the Coffee Kids program does not entail a reduction in HRNS' efforts to improve the lives of young coffee farmers. On the contrary, it meant avoiding duplicate structures and prompted the bundling of forces in other projects and activities enhancing cost-benefit efficacy. HRNS has made a clear commitment to continue supporting young coffee farmers at large scale in all regions of presence, including Brazil, Central America, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Tanzania and Uganda.
Why we need to focus on youth in coffee growing regions
The power of youth in smallholder coffee growing communities cannot be understated. These dynamic individuals are transforming the perception of farming and shaping the future of coffee regions. By embracing innovation, fostering community collaboration, promoting gender equality, and advocating for sustainable practices, they are driving positive change and laying the foundation for a thriving and resilient coffee industry. It is essential to recognize and support the potential of youth in agriculture, enabling them to become successful agricultural entrepreneurs who not only secure their own future but also contribute to the well-being of their communities and the wider coffee industry.