Kibale Forest Wild Coffee: Challenges to Market-Based Conservation in Africa

ABSTRACT: Declining rural security and pressures to reduce public-sector expenditures in the late 1990s spurred efforts to develop alternative funding models for Uganda's Kibale National Park (KNP). The Wild Coffee Project, established in 1999 with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and the Ford Foundation, sought to develop a market for wild coffee that had been harvested traditionally from areas within today's KNP. The Kibale Forest Foundation, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, was created to legalize harvests, obtain third-party wild and organic certification, and coordinate management between KNP, the coffee industry, and local communities. Although the project was successful in legalizing, harvesting, and processing the world's first certified wild and organic coffee, efforts to gain entry into the international marketplace failed. Chief among the lessons learned from this project is that for many wild-grown products, the value of “the story”—in both human and conservation terms—is likely to far exceed actual product values. This value differential should be captured through high-value niche markets to avoid low commodity pricing and subsequent pressures to improve financial returns through over harvesting. In addition, local producers should hold significant assets in whatever brands are developed, creating a shared-equity approach that serves social responsibility goals, fosters project sustainability, and ensures a steady stream of positive stories for use in marketing to build brand value. Shared equity—in this case ownership interest in the intellectual property embodied in the brand—provides a second incentive beyond transactional profits that can only be realized if resource conservation is maintained.

Category: Papers Conservation
Authors: Lilieholm, R. and Weatherly, P.
Publication Year: 2009

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