Millennium Development Goals

Coffee & the MDGs

"Coffee income is very important to this household. I use it for paying school fees, meeting medicinal bills and running family affairs. But now I am losing hope in coffee. It has disappointed me so much"

These are the words of one coffee farmer in the Masaka District near Lake Victoria in Central Uganda. They capture the desperation fely by millions of producers.

As in other countries, coffee in Uganda is predominantly a smallholder crop. It is grown alongside food crops - such as potato, maize and bananas - to provide a source of household income. Surveys of coffee farmers in 1999 and 2002 covering four regions that account for half the country's production capture the impact of falling prices. During the first half of the 1990s rising household incomes among coffee farmers - a result of curremcy devaluation, reducated taxation on producers and stable world prices - were one of the main forces driving poverty reduction in Uganda. Since 1997, as world prices plummeted, forced adjustments by farmers have begun to reverse this progress:

  • Increased debt. More than one-third of coffee farmers reported being unable to pay back a loan because of falling prices.
  • Reduced consumption. Families reported having to cut meat and fish from their diets to reduce the number of meals eaten. On the day the farmer quoted at the top of thisbox was interviewed, his 10- and 12-year old sons had not eaten breakfast.
  • Reduced investment. Families reported cutting spending on home maintenance and the purchase of goats, an important source of protein.
  • Sale of food crops. Families reported having to sell food staples to pay for health costs and school fees.

Source: Vargas Hill 2005

The crisis in coffee

What do you think of this 'crisis in coffee' situation?

Is there a difference between Uganda peoples dependence on coffee and yours?

How does reading this piece make you feel?

What in particular have you learned from this?

If you had the opportunity, what if anything would you change?