Equatoria Teak Company (ETC), Agris’ forestry operation in South Sudan, is expanding into coffee production, connecting one thousand smallholder farmers to international markets. The programme represents a critical new source of quality employment in one of the world’s most fragile states.
The “Excelling in Excelsa” programme is run by FAO South Sudan, Hummingbird Action for Peace and Development, ICCO Cooperation and ETC, and is one of four new schemes funded by RVO’s Sustainable Development Goals Partnership facility to achieve food security and private sector development. On successful completion of an inception phase, the three-year project will provide 1000 contract farmers with training, extension services and access to quality inputs, enabling them to produce Excelsa coffee to international standards. It will provide new jobs, targeted at women and farmers younger than 35, and create an additional 190 farm positions. Distribution of seedlings has commenced from a new nursery and the model farm is trialling different varieties and production protocols.
Before the Second Sudanese Civil War started in 1983, coffee was a major cash crop in the area, as Elia Box, a participating farmer from Nzara county, recalls: “In the 1970’s and 80s our area was a leading coffee producer, people constructed houses and could care for all their children with the money it earned them. But when the war started, production gradually stopped and the coffee plants were destroyed by wildfire.
“The war left many women in our community widowed, caring for children and elderly parents by themselves. And there are young people who urgently need work. This project is an opportunity for us to create jobs for ourselves. The training is especially important. We have plenty of fertile land – it is our money, if we are able to make good use of it.”
Excelsa coffee is one of the world’s four major coffee varieties and represents approximately seven per cent of global coffee production. “The growing conditions here are perfect for Excelsa and our beans have been received positively at cupping events with international buyers,” says Ian Paterson, ETC Managing Director. “A site has been identified for a processing facility and we are confident this will be the start of a thriving local industry. We are always looking for new ways to create meaningful, sustainable employment for our local community, and thanks to RVO’s support this will be another source of quality jobs.”
ETC is the state’s biggest private sector tax payer and supports healthcare services and training for its employees, as well as the only functioning secondary school. The company is currently raising expansion capital to more than double the teak plantation to 5000ha.
Its location is the historic Nzara Agricultural Complex that was once home to the region’s cotton, palm oil and groundnut industries, before being devastated by civil war and decades of insurgent activity. Bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, Western Equatoria receives the highest annual rainfall in South Sudan, and its climate and soil are ideal for many forms of agriculture.
“ETC’s commercial success in this troubled region demonstrates South Sudan’s huge potential as a major agricultural production hub,” says Ran Kadosh, Agris Managing Director. “Through Excelling in Excelsa we will develop new connections with international markets for a part of the world that has been shut off for too long. We hope its success will convince new investors to enter this frontier market, boosting economic development.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Equatoria Teak Company is South Sudan’s leading sustainable plantation and Africa’s second largest teak grower with 2,000 ha of planted teak. With trees 12+ years from maturity, ETC is trialling a variety of other crops with its network of smallholder farmers.
More information can be found at: www.equatoriateak.com
Agris is a subsidiary of Maris Ltd, an investment holding company with more than USD 100m under management across sub-Saharan Africa.
More information can be found at: www.marisafrica.com
Ed Stiles, Director, Agris.