About two-thirds of the developing world’s 3 billion rural people live in about 475 million small farm households, working on land plots smaller than 2 hectares. Many are poor and food insecure and have limited access to markets and services. Their choices are constrained, but they farm their land and produce food for a substantial proportion of the world’s population.

This is particularly the case in Tanzania, where over 75% of the population live in rural areas where agriculture and agriculture-related activities are crucial to their livelihood. The vast majority of these rural families are smallholder farmers.

Coffee is Tanzania’s largest export crop, and as such offers smallholder farming families an opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty. However to successfully do so, farmers need to overcome a number of interrelated challenges, from climate change to a lack of investment, training, or access to markets. Young people particularly are discouraged from cultivating coffee due to low prices. Women farmers, who play a crucial role in ensuring coffee volumes and quality, have traditionally been excluded from ownership of assets, as well as from opportunities for training and economic and social development.

Women and Youth involvement

1: http://www.ico.org/documents/cy2017-18/icc-121-5e-gender-equality.pdf

The contribution of both women and youth in East African coffee production often goes unrecognised. However, women provide up to 70% of the labour in the coffee production1. By encouraging and valuing their participation in the coffee value chain, this project is helping Vuasu Cooperative Union respond to current challenges.

This project is delivered by Twin, in partnership with Hivos, a Dutch development NGO with office in East Africa.

Building on partner’s previous work with VCU and integrating Twin’s six pillars of development for smallholder organisations, the Gender and Generational Empowerment project provides a holistic response to the challenge faced by VCO and their members. The project promotes the involvement of women and youth as an approach to increase productivity, quality and farmer incomes.

Consolidating business capacity for social change

Improving the viability of local businesses is the first step to creating local employment prospects and fighting the dwindling of efforts put in growing high quality specialty coffee. The aim is to raise the capacity of Vuasu Cooperative Union to return social and economic value to its members by helping it access better prices through high-value contracts on the specialty market. Through a combination of capital investment, marketing strategizing, quality, business management, and good governance, Twin and Hivos will support the union to develop into a profitable business.


  • Gender justice: trainings at household level to understand gender dynamics and ensure women have equal access to resources, development of a gender and youth inclusion policy.
  • Quality and processing: training on harvest and post-harvest practices, quality control, infrastructure, and improvements to quality management systems.
  • Sustainable agriculture: environmental assessment, certification, training on good agricultural practices, input provision.
  • Business management: development of a business plan, training on financial management and reporting.
  • Governance: emphasis on meaningful participation of women and youth at all management levels.
  • Market access: attendance to international trade fairs, support for contract negotiation and diversification of buyers, access to pre-finance.
  • Advocacy: raising awareness of the potential of coffee cooperatives for economic development and the vital role of women and youth.

Location: Same and Mwanga districts, Kilimanjaro region, North-eastern Tanzania.

Reach: 16,585 smallholder farmers and their families.

Duration: 5 years


  • The Union has received more than $10,000 in Fairtrade certification premiums, that are being invested in community projects.
  • 13.8 tons of Fairtrade certified, and specialty coffee was sold to buyers in the UK, Germany, and Japan.
  • An additional 642 members have joined the Union.
  • The establishment of 6 coffee nurseries has motivated additional farmers to set up more nurseries with their own resources.
  • During the panel on ‘Coffee for the next generation of farmers’ at the Specialty Coffee Association in Seattle, Vuasu’s agronomist shared with the industry stakeholders his visions of the challenges faced by young people in the Tanzanian coffee value chain.