Global Forum organized by Sylviane Toporkoff and Sebastien Levy
Mr. Philippe Scheimann, co-founder of TOPGlobal, delivered a testimony on sustainable development and digital transformation through the example of the coffee e-farming in Kenya.
The coffee industry today
Mr Scheimann started his presentation by highlighting that the coffee and tea farming today in Kenya occupy most agricultural lands, leaving very little space for food production. Through TOP (Technology of Peace) they have been empowering people over the past years through teaching them how to grow the food on walls (see TOP documentary on green-walls) to tackle this issue.
TOPGlobal is currently working on another issue within the coffee industry in Kenya: empowering the coffee farmers by increase their share of the coffee business.
Mr. Scheimann recalled that the average price for a coffee that you can buy in a shop in different parts of the world. He notably stressed that, Copenhagen for example, is the most expensive city in the world for a cup coffee: $6,24 for a cup of coffee in Copenhagen.
Mr Scheimann then recalled the important effort you need to do in order to produce coffee: 5-6 years to grow the tree, picking the fruit by hand which is a quite intensive work. In the end, the small scale farmers (that constitutes 60% of the coffee growers) get less than $1 per kilo of coffee. If you compare that with the 7 grams of coffee, you need to make an expresso. This means that you can make a little over 142 cups of coffee with 1 kg. And if you sell each cup for $2 a coffee, then the vendor makes about $300 per kilo. Quite a huge value but with very little of this going to farmer.
Everyone is crazy about coffee, everyone has an idea about it as explained the panelist. He continued by saying that this was especially the case in the US, where by the end of the year $1 billion will have been invested in coffee related start-ups. This doesn’t mean that this $1 billion will go to the coffee planters, but to people who will invent new things like Starbucks or new drinks. It a very good industry for some people, you have all the coffee planters who do all of the hard work and get less than $1 per kilo – and people in Kenya don’t even drink coffee, and you can sell it on wall street for sometimes up to $7, even $10 for a coffee. That’s the situation today.
What can we do?
TOPGlobal is talking about changing the whole system by connecting the dots. In the middle, there is the coffee roasters and there is a young man, Alfred, from Kenya. An engineer who went to study the slow food movement in Italy, coming from a very poor family and supported by an NGO through university and got him a scholarship for Italy. Four years ago, he came back to Kenya and developed some made in Kenya roasting machines, so people can roast the coffee on their own.
TOPGlobal is helping with setting-up this ecosystem that brings value to the process. In this ecosystem, you have the farmers, working hard to have the coffee plants grow. You also have the cooperatives, foreign purchasers. You have “Rodi Kenya NGO” who is doing organic agriculture. And you have Alfred and his roasting machine that cost $200 against similar machines on Alibaba that cost $5.000. With the help from Rodi Kenya, some farmers were able to turn 200 trees giving 300 kg to 7.000 kg within 3 years. Do people prefer a coffee with chemicals or an organic coffee? The answer is quite obvious. The issue is that currently, the organic coffee is only sold in one place: the factory.
In the new ecosystem, TOPGlobal and their partners are cutting the middle men, empowering the coffee producers.
A good example is what is actually happening in Denmark, where the biggest cooperative COOP, have set up an installation in Kenya for processing coffee to cut off all the intermediaries.
Similarly, the new ecosystem is based on a platform where you have vendors and sellers – could be some large foreign purchasers like Carrefour for example – that are connected to the farmers through their phones. But the objective is to make this a sustainable system: this means bringing value to all the parts. With the collaboration between TOP and Data Global excellence, we are setting up the rules for each actor, what kind of value they should get. In the end, the purpose is to introduce some traceability to allow people to choose a coffee that is environmentally, socially and economically responsible.
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