A partnership to catalyse the growth of the specialty coffee market in Timor-Leste by improving farmer incomes and establishing a sustainable coffee export business, Orijem Timor. The partners will work together to improve the reputation of Timor-Leste specialty coffee on the global market.
The initiative supports coffee quality improvements by forging long-term relationships with farmers and by supporting them with education, training, and technical assistance. Relationships with farmers will be backed contractually with pre-harvest purchasing agreements that provide farmers with assured income. The contracts incentivise farmers to undertake the remediation activities required to achieve specialty coffee grade harvests. The partners will establish centralised processing mills, ensuring that quality can be controlled throughout the coffee production process.
An experimentation farm will spur on innovations in coffee quality. The farm will be leased through the partnership and will test the use of different plant varieties, planting and maintenance techniques, and methods for adapting to a changing climate.
As well as improving the supply-side, the partnership is focused on marketing Timor-Leste coffee on international markets and creating long-term demand for specialty coffee. The partners bring a wealth of experience and knowledge, both on-the-ground, and of international markets, to support the initiative’s aims. The shift to growing specialty coffee will have a long-term impact on farmers while creating value for coffee exporters.
Coffee is an essential cash crop for much of the rural population in Timor-Leste and is the largest non-oil export. The international commodity market for coffee has been badly impacted due to COVID-19, and the current price for commodity grade coffee beans is low, threatening livelihoods and the future of the local coffee industry. With 60% of Timor-Leste’s coffee export sold as commodity grade, shifting to the more stable specialty coffee market can help ensure the industry’s future.
Basic farming practices, old plants and challenging local logistics conditions results in farmers struggling to gain fair, stable and secure sources of income. Pilot initiatives have shown the shift to specialty coffee is possible, but needs strong technical and marketing support to reach scale and sustainability.
Building women’s role in the coffee supply chain.
While women and men are both heavily involved in Timor-Leste coffee production, women are less visible and have fewer opportunities to develop themselves and benefit economically. Women do not commonly hold property rights in Timor-Leste and have historically been excluded from decision making in village and community forums. This limits women’s involvement and access to training and removes the opportunity to grow assets and raise their status.
To address the inequality of opportunity and income between women and men the initiative will:
Require supply contracts to be signed by both husband and wife where relevant and possible, rather than just the male as “xefe familia” (head of the family).
Run both mixed and women-only farm education and harvest and coffee training sessions, led by female trainers.
Pay women directly for coffee harvest and seasonal work, rather than via their male partners as is often practice.
Employ women in salaried positions where practical in preference to casual/contracted seasonal labour.
Digital and print communications material produced for marketing and training purposes will further champion equality by featuring both men and women working together or individually undertaking roles outside the typical stereotypes. Particular emphasis will be placed promoting women in decision-making and ownership positions.
Promoting sustainable farming
The initiative improves the sustainability of coffee production in Timor-Leste in the face of a changing climate. The initiative will help to develop a model that addresses the three main environmental impacts associated with coffee production: power consumption, water consumption, and waste-water contamination:
The wet mills will be solar-powered, shifting from a diesel generator power source.
The experimentation farm will test climate adaptive coffee growing methods.
Water consumption will be reduced through the construction of reservoirs to support collection and storage of water that can be used during processing, and potential re-use of treated water. In farmer training and outreach, growers will be encouraged to inter-crop to improve soil quality.
Hear from the partners
“The Project Origin team is very excited to begin this partnership and work to boost the reputation and marketability of Timor Leste coffee. We hope to see the collaborative partnership model expanding across the entire coffee industry and business relationships based on fairly distributed value to producers and producing communities becoming the norm rather than the exception. Ultimately, that is what will create long-term sustainability and strength in the specialty coffee industry as a whole.” Habib Maarbani, Project Origin.
Habib at a mill Project Origin is working with in Kenya
At Kape Diem Coffee Lab we have always been about a sense of community and are excited to commence a new partnership with Project Origin, 1LM and DFAT that improves coffee quality. Together, we will be able catalyse growth while also increasing the demand for Timorese specialty coffee in new international markets. Orijem Timor will look beyond, while remaining firmly rooted in Timor-Leste and it is here that will increase economic benefits for all members of the coffee value chain,” Daniel Leong and Gobie Rajalingam,Kape Diem Coffee Lab
Daniel and Gobie during the annual coffee harvest in Letefoho, Ermera.
“1LM is proud to be a part of the BPP, and in conjunction with its partners, support Orijem Timor to develop Timor-Leste’s specialty coffee industry. We are keen to provide new energy and ideas through the partnership to create positive change within Timor’s coffee industry. By working with local farming communities to develop the quality, sustainability and equitability throughout the coffee value chain, we hope to improve their economic security and help obtain international recognition as producers of quality coffee,” Troy Huckstepp, 1LM