Fundación ETEA and CESAL have joined forces to boost competition in western Honduras, and aim to reduce poverty throughout optimising the coffee value chain, improving sustainability, and making practices more inclusive across the sector.
In this region, coffee is a key part of the local economy. CESAL and Fundación ETEA support around 20 coffee organisations and producers in the area to improve market access and coffee quality.
We sat down with Michela Accerenzi, the Central American Regional Coordinator for Fundación ETEA, a PRF 2021 partner. Michela told us about how they are improving Honduran coffee and the measures that Fundación ETEA and CESAL are taking to improve the livelihoods of Honduran coffee communities.
WHAT DOES THE TERM TRACEABILITY MEAN FOR CESAL AND FUNDACIÓN ETEA?
Each day, the coffee market shows a growing interest not only in quality coffee but also in knowing the story behind the cup. Traceability means knowing, in a transparent way, the whole process from seed to cup.
It means accounting for the environmental and social management of the farm, recognising the efforts of the producer, and proving quality in processing as well as transparency in sales.
From the consumer side, there has been a growing interest in knowing the story of who produces the coffee, as well as paying a fair price for coffee that is sustainable economically, environmentally, and socially.
Traceability should account for these aspects in both producing and consuming countries.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND CHALLENGES OF EXPORTING GREEN COFFEE FROM HONDURAS?
Honduras stands out as a coffee producer in terms of quantity. In 2018, it was the world’s fifth-largest producer and exporter. In the same year, coffee accounted for 38% of agricultural GDP in the country.
In the last few years, it has also managed to enter the specialty coffee sector with very good results. The terrain and the climate in the country are both favourable for producing good quality coffee.
However, production is in the hands of smallholder producers: 85% of them have farms that are less than 5 manzanas in size (around 8.4 acres). In the case of women, who represent 18% of producers and 14% of the country’s total production, farms are even smaller.
This makes it difficult to achieve an economy of scale, and the terrain in Honduras generally forces producers to pick coffee by hand. While this might be better for the environment and coffee quality, it puts Honduras at a disadvantage because of the increase in production costs when you compare it to countries like Brazil [who often use mechanical harvesting methods].
A big challenge [for producers] will be marketing single origin Honduran coffee. While it has been possible to geographically identify coffees from individual producers, or certain geographical origins such as Marcala and Copán, many Honduran coffees still aren’t well-positioned today.
Finally, the most significant challenge in Honduras is due to the fact that approximately 50% of coffee is grown, sold, and exported in a ‘traditional’ way. This ultimately means it is sold informally, which generally results in very unequal terms as producers often sell through exploitative brokers. Furthermore, producers often suffer from very poor social, economic, and environmental conditions, and full traceability is often impossible.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES AS NGO IN THE COFFEE INDUSTRY?
As NGOs, we have to raise funds through competitive processes. This means we need to have very clear goals and plans.
However, while we are focused on eradicating poverty, we see that stakeholders and donors often lack specific experience and education regarding coffee production. This sometimes raises challenges when we justify decisions based on our experiences to donors who don’t know much or even anything about coffee.
In the future, we anticipate that there will be additional difficulties caused by Covid-19 in many donor countries. Additionally, as a result of all the socioeconomic problems in Europe, we also predict that there will be budget cuts regarding aid and development, which will only make it more difficult to increase efforts to support the coffee sector.
WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN OBJECTIVES FOR PRF 2021?
PRF 2021 represents a meeting space where stakeholders can learn, share, and establish new relationships.
CESAL and Fundación ETEA will take 30 representatives from coffee-producing organisations and farmers to PRF 2021. This will give them the opportunity to learn first-hand about coffee consumption, discover buyers’ tastes and requirements, deliver samples of their high-quality coffees, and share stories from their experiences as well as those of the wider community.
Photo credits: Fundación ETEA