Coffee

Coffee travels thousands of miles from farms to exporters and roasters, then on to wholesalers and retail outlets. It’s consumed at a huge rate of over 2.25 billion cups per day worldwide. But who really profits from coffee’s popularity, and how confident should we be about the future supply of this beloved hot drink?
Heirs and stewards of the Colombian coffee tradition Read featured story

194,537

farmers and workers trained to adopt good practices

320,458

hectares under sustainable management

36

processors supported to adopt good practices

Challenges

Economically and environmentally viable production

There are on-going challenges in the coffee sector that question the sustainability of the value chain. Growing coffee is no longer profitable for many smallholder producers, putting its supply at risk. The way that coffee has been produced to date often results in environmental consequences that will be felt for generations to come.

Prosperity for coffee farming communities seems to be a distant aim. Many farms making little money from their production; others struggle to cover production costs. This is exacerbated  by the international market paying persistently low prices. The annual value of the coffee industry is estimated at $200 billion, with only 10% remaining in producing countries. We need transparency across the entire chain to understand where value is concentrated and identify opportunities for redistribution.

As the impact of climate change on coffee becomes more evident, producers and buyers question the intensive cultivation methods, which rely on inorganic fertilizers and full sun exposure, promoted during the last decades. Deforestation is another consequence of intensive cultivation, as producers clear forest to maximize yields.  Deforestation releases greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. This isn’t the type of change that will sustain coffee cultivation today or in the future.

Contributions made by women and informal workers to coffee production are invisible. In recent years, the sector has become aware that women are active at all stages of production. In some regions, like East Africa, women contribute the majority of labour, yet when it comes to making sales, they face a glass ceiling. Sales are controlled by men, who retain much of the control over household income. Small family production units also employ informal rural workers who,. in terms of income and wellbeing, are perhaps the most vulnerable link in the chain. But isn’t widely known in the sector.

Now that our production is stable, we have a next step: to conserve the cloud forest where we live. We believe that having decent incomes and conserving the environment must go hand in hand.

René Hernandez, coffee producer, Cooperative Comon Yaj Noptic, Chiapas, Mexico

Solutions

Generating value for all

Our global programme aims to deliver practical solutions that enable the coffee sector to generate value in its journey towards sustainability. Enhanced sustainability must increase value to all the different actors in the supply chain and should truly benefit producers and workers.

We work with farmers to produce more on less land. The coffee of the future protects the forest within farms and surrounding areas. It has reduced its reliance on inorganic fertilizers; it’s produced in the shade and uses climate-resistant varieties. It also makes economic sense to producers.  Over 10,000 producers across Latin America are already producing the coffee of the future.

For coffee to be sustainable we need to collaborate – it’s the only way to overcome the barriers. In 2013, we launched the Sustainable Trade Platform in Colombia, and then supported the launch of the Global Coffee Platform and the Sustainable Coffee Challenge. In recent years, we’ve launched platforms in Kenya, Honduras and Nicaragua. We aim to develop joint solutions that transform the coffee sector.

We work with producers to increase productivity, reduce costs and monitor the performance of their farms. This work is facilitated with the use of our in-house digital solutions. We’re also working with global buyers to promote transparency and ensure that value isn’t concentrated, and that producers and workers aren’t left behind.

The work you do is unique. Unlike others, where there are external experts, it’s Ethiopians reaching the grassroots, working with primary cooperatives, training Ethiopians who work directly with the farmers.

Tadesse Meskela, General Manager, Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Cooperative Union, Ethiopia

Achievements

More climate-smart coffee

In Mexico, the climate-smart coffee model was expanded to Common Yaj Noptic Cooperative, who improved average productions from 6 metric quintals per hectare to 13 qq/ha. We then began replicating the model in Nicaragua. In Honduras, we led and supported the development, articulation and approval of the national gender policy within the coffee value chain by liaising with the public sector, CSOs and other actors through the national chapter of the Global Coffee Platform, Plataforma de Café Sostenible de Honduras (Sustainable Coffee Platform of Honduras).

Through the Practice for Change programme, participating coffee farmers in Kenya increased coffee production from an average of 2.2 to 3.5kg of cherry yield per tree in 2019/20. Additionally, the establishment of 300 village savings and loan associations in East Africa helped increased access to finance for more than 7,500 coffee farmers.

Growing impact

In East Africa, the coffee program has reached more than 114,416 small-scale farmers through direct and indirect training, with a resulting 35% increase in farmer incomes, despite falling coffee prices. 

Partnerships are also driving progress in Central and South America. Café del Futuro (Coffee of the Future), the second stage of Solidaridad’s joint strategy with Norway’s International Climate Forests Initiative, was officially launched in Colombia and Peru. The project has already supported 1,880 coffee growers, and directly managed 5,844 hectares using climate-smart practices at the end, as well as the planting of over 20,000 trees. 

A key alliance with the Honduran government aims to develop and implement a national gender policy, including financial inclusion workshops for women. In Mexico, this was the fourth year of our Climate Smart Coffee Lab, with an increase from five to 24 quintals per hectare of fair trade coffee grown on renovated plots by an organic cooperative.

Consolidation and exchange

2018 was a year of consolidation, exchange and influence for our coffee programme. We launched a major initiative in East Africa to transform 15,000 coffee farmers’ production systems in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania by 2021, ran an exchange for our global coffee teams in Colombia and Peru to enhance our climate-smart coffee technical package, and launched the 2018’s Coffee Barometer with more than 100 industry leaders as part of the World of Coffee event in Europe.

Leveraging digital tools

Digital tools offer enormous potential to enhance sustainability efforts. In 2017, Solidaridad commenced a digital journey with coffee farmers in both Peru and Colombia to focus on improving agricultural practices. The use of digital tools and farming data compliments Solidaridad’s existing work in these countries. Building on this knowledge ensures that new interventions are tailored to the specific needs of producers, and in a more efficient, more affordable manner.

The climate-smart approach

The first phase of Solidaridad’s climate-smart agriculture programme in Mexico, Colombia and Peru concluded with promising results. Solidaridad has now developed a proof of concept that combines higher and more consistent productivity and quality with improved environmental management.

Building a business case

Although the global coffee industry has invested considerably in the supply chain in the past year, coffee production is at risk. Climate change has taken a heavy toll on coffee farmers in particular. Solidaridad has been successful in building a business case for Climate Smart Agriculture in coffee producing countries. Public-private collaboration at the global and local level is required to scale up efforts and investments. By building on the certification efforts and going further, a shift to a continual improvement framework for sustainability based on performance rather than compliance is needed.

The heat is on!

The Coffee Barometer 2014 was published. On July 3, 2014 the Sustainable Coffee Conference ‘The heat is on!’ took place in Amsterdam. During this one-day conference, the Coffee Barometer 2014 was presented. Solidaridad also organised a workshop on one of the main solutions to the challenges facing coffee growers: the adoption of climate-smart agriculture.

Integrating horticulture

Solidaridad established a major food security programme in East Africa, which integrates horticulture with coffee production. In Latin America a climate-smart coffee production programme was launched to help farmers adapt to climate change.   

Continuous improvement

Solidaridad adjusted its strategy based on lessons learnt. Certification alone cannot solve all the problems in the coffee sector. It is a instrument for making production more sustainable, however, only by going beyond certification criteria can we achieve a step-change in sustainability, with major benefits to farmer in developing countries.

Increasing productivity

Solidaridad developed coffee training packages focused on increased productivity, higher quality, reduced costs and better prices.   

Accelerating responsible coffee

Solidaridad and SNV Netherlands Development Organization started the PROCASO programme in Honduras to accelerate responsible coffee production practices and UTZ certification. By 2010, 25% of the coffee production from Honduras was certified and now Honduras is the fifth country producing sustainable standard-compliant coffee.

UTZ Certified

Solidaridad co-initiated UTZ Certified, a CSR label for coffee. In the beginning the organization was called UTZ Kapeh. In the following year the concept was expanded from coffee to cocoa, tea and hazelnuts.   

Where we work

Featured Programmes

Coffee of the future

This is an ambitious programme funded by Norad that aims to transform 13,174 hectares of conventional coffee to climate smart, whilst impacting the livelihoods of 6,169 producers in Colombia and Peru. The project is also developing market channels to source and differentiate the “Coffee of the Future.”

Coffee Resilience in East Africa

This project aims to increase the economic, social and environmental resilience of 15,944 coffee farmers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.  In the last two years, we have developed the skills of 7,850 lead producers that are working with their neighbouring peers in the dissemination of good agricultural practices, with a special focus on productivity and quality.

Coffee Platforms in Honduras and Nicaragua

This initiative aims to transform the coffee sector in Honduras and Nicaragua through the identification of a national joint agenda for sustainability.  Solidaridad has launched these two national platforms in partnership with Rainforest Alliance, the Global Coffee Platform and Rikolto. 

Circular Coffee Peru

This project introduces circularity principles in the coffee value chain from Peru to the Netherlands. It aims to reduce the use of resources whilst creating an economically viable solution to manage coffee waste from the plot to the cup.  This project is delivered in partnership with the roaster Jacob Douwe Egberts, Olam Peru, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), the producer organisation Cuencas del Huallaga and the National Forestry Division (SERFOR) in Peru.

Join us in making coffee truly sustainable