Timor-Leste’s specialty coffee industry is being put on the map with coffee production partnership, Orijem Timor, connecting farmers in Timor-Leste to global markets, and we couldn’t be more proud to be involved. Together with our partners, we are working towards sharing and growing specialty coffees from the beautiful Timor-Leste in a sustainable and progressive way that will benefit 1000+ coffee producing households for years and years to come.
With the proud backing of the Australian Government’s Business Partnership Platform (BPP), Orijem Timor was formed in 2021 based on a partnership between three companies, each of whom share similar values and goals. Local company, Kape Diem Coffee Lab, trains farmers and works with them to grow and process high-quality specialty coffee. Australian green-bean export company, Project Origin, uses international connections to export coffee to roasters around the world. Lastly, the Australian profit-for-purpose project services company 1LM helps deliver the program with planning, management and liaison services.
Together, we are working towards achieving goals in the Timor-Leste coffee community that will improve the community’s way of life, gender equality, environmental impacts and sustainable trading.
Coffee in Timor-Leste
Coffee was first introduced to the soils of Timor-Leste by the Portuguese in the 1800’s, and today it is the largest non-oil export for the nation’s economy. The coffee industry contributes greatly towards employment and plays a big role in rural communities, however there are some key barriers that face the coffee production from reaching greater potentials including the fluctuating international coffee prices, local roads and infrastructure, and global demand for Timor-Leste coffee. Beyond these barriers, Orijem Timor recognises social and environmental challenges as well. With global coffee consumption on the rise, the consuming market should be expanding their field of vision and looking to procure coffee beans from more origins around the world.
The most common varietal grown in Timor-Leste is Hybrido de Timor, commonly known as Timor Hybrid, which was grown from a cross between arabica coffee and robusta coffee. This variant shows positive attributes from both parents, as it is able to grow in soils less fertile than that required for some arabica varietals, it has a greater resistance to pests and diseases, and yet it holds a great quality that, when cared for and processed correctly, can show wonderfully in the cup. We will be showcasing these attributes, and the talents of the farmers and producers, through our offering of Timor-Leste green beans.
The key goals for Orijem Timor
The partnership was built to encourage economic growth and jobs in Timor-Leste by working with local farmers to improve their farms and grow specialty coffee, creating greater export opportunities and better coffee prices. It will also introduce better practices to improve the environmental sustainability of coffee processing, and provide influential roles for women in the coffee industry. The initiative has already supported over 170 Timorese households to grow high quality coffee cherries and boost their income in its first year of operation.
While the project is scheduled to take place over a 3-year plan, we believe these changes can make an impact for decades, and so Project Origin is committed to seeing small and large achievements fulfilled.
What do we want to achieve?
Small scale: encourage farmers to switch from growing commodity grade coffee to join the network of specialty grade coffee growers, develop higher-quality crops, improve education of best practices and improve sustainable farming
Medium scale: build higher demand and achieve higher prices for farmers
Large scale: develop Timor-Leste as a coffee destination to support tourism and global brand recognition
How will we measure success?
We believe success for Orijem Timor will include seeing 1000 farmers by 2023 join the specialty coffee network and a total export yield of 180 tonnes by 2023. We will see an increase in Timor-Leste coffee interest across the world and an increase in contacts with local representatives. Timor-Leste will be stamped on the map as a coffee producing destination, complete with visibility and awareness online through search engine optimisation and marketing.
We will build strong relationships with farmers on the ground, our partners in Orijem Timor, and key diplomats to help further this work.
Our key goals
Orijem Timor will be working towards three keys goals:
- Better farming for better taste
- Promoting sustainable farming
- Building women’s roles in the coffee sector
To best understand exactly how these goals will impact the coffee industry, we will explore them each in further detail.
Better farming for better taste
Much like Project Origin’s model in other countries, we are committed to forging long-term relationships with the farmers. Our on the ground partner in Timor-Leste, Kape Diem, is working to connect with farmers and equip them with the knowledge and resources they need to improve their farms and elevate their produce into amazing specialty-grade coffee. Orijem Timor works with each farmer to provide training and sustainable farming improvements in order to increase crop quality and output, in turn generating increased income. With these improvements naturally comes better prices and a better income.
To further improve the farmer’s incomes, Orijem Timor are strengthening relationships with farmers by offering pre-harvest purchasing agreements for the coffee. This means that the farmers and producers are able to focus on the cherries and harvesting alone, rather than divide their attention between coffee and income related concerns.
Additionally, Orijem Timor will support an experimentation farm for the purpose of advancing innovations in coffee quality for Timor-Leste. This farm will include testing different varieties and their growth capabilities in the area, improving maintenance techniques and exploring methods of adapting coffee agriculture to survive the changing climate.
Promoting sustainable farming
Orijem Timor will be working to address three main environmental impacts that are associated with coffee production, and implementing solutions throughout coffee producing areas to ensure the natural environment is not at risk. The three main impacts and the solutions include:
- Power consumption; wet mills will be solar powered
- Water consumption; reservoirs will be constructed to collect and store water for processing
- Waste-water contamination; the potential re-use of treated water will be explored and implemented
Additionally, through farmer training conducted by Kape Diem, growers will be encouraged to naturally improve their soil qualities by planting alternative crops in between the coffee trees.
Building women’s roles in the coffee sector
Despite both women and men being heavily involved in coffee production, women are typically less visible and offered fewer chances to develop themselves or receive higher incomes. These growth restrictions are not limited to coffee production, as historically women have had less opportunity to progress, grow, or hold lands in their villages and communities throughout Timor-Leste.
Gender equality is critical for our partner BPP, and together we are committed to building practical steps towards supporting and growing women’s roles in the coffee industry, as well as enable asset growth, and encourage training and skills development. Some of these steps include supply contracts requiring a signature from both the husband and wife where possible, when historically this was signed by just the man as the head of the family, as well as the women being paid directly for their work and harvests, rather than sending their income via their male partners. As the green bean exporters and on-sellers of the product, Project Origin commits to promoting not only the work of Orijem Timor and the coffees from the farmers and producers throughout Timor-Leste, but also focusing on the promotion of women and their contributions to the industry through this country.
Our first taste
Orijem Timor was proud to share the flavours of its first season’s produce with delegations from both the Timorese and Australian Governments during the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation’s visit to Canberra in February, 2022. H.E. Minister Magno, H.E. Ambassador Almedia, and Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Seselja, received an update on the company’s operations and tasted two of the fantastic coffees produced during the 2021 harvest. This involved a washed coffee from Maubisse and an award-winning experimental natural process lot from Ermera. Both ministers were excited to taste the coffees and H. E. Minister Magno commented on Orijem Timor’s potential to raise Timor-Leste’s profile as a producer of high quality organic coffee.
The samples provided to the ministers are just two of the many unique specialty Timorese coffees that the Orijem Timor is currently exporting to roasters in Australia, Asia and the Middle East.
With these major goals in place and a strong alliance between the partners; Kape Diem, Project Origin, 1LM and BPP – Orijem Timor will be building a sustainable specialty coffee sector across Timor-Leste. It will be environmentally considered, more socially equal, and economically sustainable, with the final added bonus being increasingly tasty cup profiles. Project Origin is proud to be involved in such a holistic project and we can’t wait for each and every one of our roasting partners to taste the work of the Timor-Leste communities for many years to come.