In June 2020, Laterite started a study with international development nonprofit TechnoServe to understand how COVID-19 was affecting smallholder coffee farmers in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda. The phone survey reached over 1,900 coffee farming households across up to ten rounds of phone surveys.
What did we learn?
Overall, coffee farmers were most affected at the beginning of the pandemic when lockdowns and restrictions in our target countries were the most strict. As restrictions eased, coffee farming households were largely able to continue their work. For farmers who reported challenges carrying out their usual farming activities due to COVID-19, the main issues were lack of income to buy inputs or hire labor, or decreased prices for coffee cherries on the market.
Across all countries, most farmers reported some income loss during harvest season compared to previous years. Most reported implementing at least one coping strategy to cover basic household needs such as using savings or relying on cheaper or less preferred food. The incidence of hunger was low over time, except in Zimbabwe where up to 18% of farmers reported going to bed at night hungry across all rounds.
Despite these concerns, we saw optimism about the future increasing over time as restrictions eased.
Conditions have changed again since January 2021, with the Delta variant gaining pace in Africa and some countries seeing restrictions return. Together with TechnoServe we will run additional rounds of the phone survey in the coming months to understand how the coffee farming households are coping with this new situation. This data will be used by TechnoServe and stakeholders in the coffee industry to tailor training and support responses as necessary.
Explore the results to date in our Coffee Farmer COVID-19 Dashboard and in the country infographics below.