DILI, TIMOR-LESTE (20 October 2017) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is leveraging the skills and capacity of Timor-Leste's high youth population to help the country's thriving coffee industry become a key contributor to inclusive growth and sustainable development.

ADB's assistance, through a $225,000 grant sourced from ADB’s Technical Assistance Special Fund, will help develop Timor-Leste's coffee industry through the preparation of a comprehensive coffee sector development plan that will be implemented with the private sector and the youth.

“The initial ADB diagnostic work for the coffee sector development plan has highlighted a range of issues where financing and other development assistance is needed,” said David Freedman, ADB Country Economist for Timor-Leste. “Youth engagement is a key issue and achieving adoption of good agricultural practices at scale remains a challenge.”

Coffee is grown by almost one-third of all Timorese households and has been the country’s largest non-oil export for the past 150 years. Coffee has the potential to play an important role in the future development of Timor-Leste, providing certain weaknesses in its production are addressed.

Conflict and under investment in the coffee sector in 1975-1999 contributed to a loss of farming skills and left a legacy of aged trees. Since 2000, numerous reports by the government and its development partners have identified lack of industry coordination as a constraint to the development of the coffee sector. Progress has been made in training farmers and rolling out replanting programs but much more work needs to be done.

Working alongside the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Timor-Leste Coffee Association, ADB has partnered with the Coffee Quality Institute—a US-based non-profit working exclusively on coffee sector improvement programs—to help develop the plan. Work on the plan is underway with inception workshops held in September, while baseline assessments of training and applied research capacity from the government and the private sector are being finalized.

The grant, part of an awareness campaign to attract youth to the coffee industry, will support an innovative reality TV show, Fila fali ba to'os or Back to the farm, which will air in 2018. The show will pair young baristas working in Dili with coffee farming groups throughout the country. The barista and farmer teams will work to improve the quality of their coffee by implementing quality improvement initiatives. These initiatives will be showcased on the TV show which will culminate in a coffee quality and barista competition at Festival Kafe Timor—the country’s annual coffee celebration.

The 2017 Festival Kafe Timor will be held from 21-28 October. ADB support for the festival this year includes helping the coffee association organize the event and the 2017 “Origin Tour”, in which a group of coffee buyers will travel to Timor-Leste to take part in the festival at their own expense. These buyers own or work for specialty coffee businesses in Australia, New Zealand, US, Canada, and Singapore. Most are visiting the country for the first time and will use the festival as an opportunity to decide whether to start buying coffee from Timor-Leste.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in cofinancing.

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