Laos, Japan Join Forces to Boost Coffee Production

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Japan and UN World Food Programme Join Forces to Boost Coffee Production in Laos
Ambassador Kenichi Kobayashi (left) and Mrs Siriphone Souphanthong (right) examine seedlings during a visit to Phonxay district, Luang Prabang province. (Photo: WFP Laos)

The Japanese government joined various partners to launch a project aimed at empowering coffee farmers in two districts of Luang Prabang Province on 15 February. This initiative will bolster farmer’s production and marketing efforts while promoting access to and understanding of essential nutrition.

The Cocreation of Food Security for Farmers with Economic Empowerment with Japan (COFFEE-JAPAN) is a project funded by the Government of Japan with approximately USD 1 million, which will be undertaken in collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the United Nations World Food Programme, Saka no Tochu, a Japanese private company active in Laos, and Saffron Coffee, a Lao fair-trade coffee company.

The project targets eight villages in Luang Prabang’s Phonxai and Vieng Kham districts. Over a duration of 30 months, 300 smallholder producers and their families will benefit directly from knowledge and resources to improve and increase their production while enhancing their nutrition awareness. The coffee produced will be exported to the Japanese market. The partners aim to create a replicable model of incorporating nutrition into the coffee value chain.

“Coffee, as a cash crop, has a high potential to create economic opportunities for people. However, there is a dearth in high-quality internationally marketable coffee, as farmers in northern areas of the country have limited skills to cultivate it for the demands of international markets. We are thankful for support from Japan and the collaboration between a broad range of actors to create more income for coffee farmers, while ensuring they learn about nutrition and have access to healthy food,” said Siriphone Souphanthong, Vice-Governor of Luang Prabang Province.

“Over several decades, Japan has been continuously supporting the development of the agriculture and forestry sectors in Laos, including the partnership with WFP. Taking the great opportunities of the 50th year of Japan-ASEAN Friendship and Cooperation last year, Laos’ ASEAN chairmanship this year, and the upcoming celebration of 70 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Laos next year, we are delighted to support this initiative, hoping to contribute to stabilizing and improving rural incomes, while ensuring food security and improving nutrition,” said Kenichi Kobayashi, Ambassador of Japan to Laos.

“At Saka no Tochu, we believe that in the production of coffee, numerous social issues exist, and addressing them rather than turning away is crucial for the future of a 21st-century business. We aim to provide training and infrastructure to farmers, which will benefit their whole village, with the ultimate goal of a better life for all in the community. Through our activities, we plan to increase the volume of coffee that will be available for export, to target specifically the market of small and medium roasters in Japan,” said Mr. Kunihiko Ono, Founder and CEO of Saka no Tochu.

“Our primary goal at WFP is to allow families to access a diversified diet that meets their needs. Nutrition education will create awareness in the communities about the needs at different stages in life, while the increased income from coffee production will allow farmers buy the food they don’t already produce. COFFEE-JAPAN is an innovative public-private partnership with a sustainable people-centred approach, integrating export-grade coffee production, capacity building and nutrition awareness to empower communities and drive positive change,” said Marc-André Prost, WFP Representative and Country Director.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.