Coffee Lifeline

Contact name: Peter Kettler
Phone: 608.437.7275
Project URL:
Organization Name: Radio Lifeline

Project: Coffee Lifeline
Location: Rwanda & Kenya
Projected Impact: 1.5 Million

Although it began in Rwanda, Coffee Lifeline also broadcasts through several radio stations in Kenya and is heard by segments of the populations of Uganda, DRC, Burundi, and soon in Tanzania.

Project Description
Coffee Lifeline is a radio communications project that connects stakeholders across geographic, political, and economic borders, providing a platform for the exchange of vital information that can help to increase crop yields, improve a family’s health, and lead to more resilient producer communities. Since 2005, the Coffee Lifeline project has broadcasted over 425 radio programs to the coffee producing communities of Rwanda and Kenya, while also reaching into parts of Uganda, Burundi, and the DRC. These weekly broadcasts contain information that includes agronomic best practices, cooperative development and sustainability, climate change, early childhood and maternal health, HIV and AIDS education, nutrition, food security, economic diversification, financial literacy, as well as a series of children’s stories featured at the close of each broadcast.

Each month, the Coffee Lifeline production teams visit a number of different coffee cooperatives, washing stations, and producer communities to conduct interviews and gather information regarding issues impacting regional coffee farmers. These visits form the basis for program content development by utilizing local and international experts to help provide advice and potential solutions to urgent and long-term challenges encountered by producer communities and within national coffee value chains.

Utilizing Lifeline Energy’s self-powered, both crank and solar, radio technology, the Coffee Lifeline project promotes the power of group discussion and decision making to help implement solutions at the local level that are appropriate to the culture, economy, and needs of the specific region. At the same time, it is also linking them to agricultural initiatives at the national level. Each Lifeline radio is distributed to a locally elected radio “guardian” who agrees to care for it as community property and make it available to local listening groups. These groups are comprised of up to 40 farmers. When listening to broadcasts in this setting, information can be assimilated and assessed among the group with decisions being reached by a consensus, leading to a greater probability for the implementation of sustainable solutions.

Who Will Benefit from this Project?
Coffee Lifeline is designed to cast a wide web of communication throughout the coffee producing regions of Rwanda and Kenya. In areas that do not have access to electricity, a radio remains a farmer’s most reliable link to other parts of the country and the world at large. Due to the variety of topics covered within the broadcast programs, which include not only information related to coffee production, but also quality of life issues that can benefit a wide spectrum of the population, we consider all of our program listeners to be participants. Through our interviews with industry stakeholders, including farmers, technicians, washing station personnel, cooperative managers, exporters, and government officials, we can confidently estimate that the Coffee Radio Network listenership has reached 1.2 million individuals. When taking into consideration Coffee Lifeline’s sister project, Py Lifeline, which is in support of northern Rwanda’s pyrethrum farming sector, as well as our signal penetration into neighboring Burundi, Uganda, and the DRC, we estimate total Radio Lifeline listenership approaching 1.5 million individuals.

What You Can Do to Help
At the beginning of the twentieth century, before the dawn of radio, the term “broadcasting” referred to the sowing of seeds over a wide area. It is an image that resonates with the work of Radio Lifeline today, spreading seeds of information throughout the countless farming communities of East Africa. Information has come to be viewed as one of the most powerful forms of international currency in the world today. Information can help to start a business, save a life, or even begin a revolution. Making the best decision is directly related to having access to the best information available. In an increasingly connected world, information is power. Radio Lifeline seeks to empower farmers and their families to make the best decisions possible according to their own priorities, culture, and values. Radio Lifeline seeks to help these farmers and their families become sustainably successful, rather than merely subsistent.

As the scope and reach of Coffee Lifeline broadcasts continue to expand, our need for additional resources has also simultaneously increased. As smallholder farmers grow two thirds of the world’s food, our own future is directly related to their success. An investment in Radio Lifeline is one of the most cost-efficient ways to provide for the future of farming. We hope that you agree, that this is truly the time to put our money where our mouths are.

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