Dutch Prime Minister Rutte endorses better water management for coffee in Colombia

Removing challenges for implementing good water management can increase the income of coffee growers. To address this issue, the government of the Netherlands, Nespresso, Nestlé, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), Solidaridad and Wageningen University signed a Memorandum of Understanding in November 2018 to tackle the challenges of water management in the coffee value chain and landscape.

Backed by an international reputation for advanced water management, the memorandum was also endorsed by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during his official visit to Colombia, signalling the Netherland’s continued commitment to supporting sustainable development around the globe.

Expanding upon the Valuing Water Initiative

The MoU signatories will collaborate in the coffee growing regions of Colombia and apply the principles for prioritizing water management as established by the High-Level Panel of Water (HLPW) to achieve:

  1. direct and indirect benefits for the coffee growers, including greater profitability;
  2. sustainable land and water management and environmental protection;
  3. reduction in water pollution.

“We must work together as one for sustainable coffee growing, with water management and environmental protection, to ensure the new generations can have good living conditions based on profitable coffee growing in harmony with nature”, explained Roberto Vélez, chief executive officer at the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation.

This collaboration is part of the Valuing Water Initiative (VWI) that works with front-runners, both public and private, who are ready to re-think how to use and manage water more sustainably and act accordingly. The latter is necessary to get the world back on track to achieve the water-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 6, as well as SDG 2, 9, 11, 12, 14 and 15). The implementation will pay special attention to gender equality and youth engagement.

We know that coffee farmers face many challenges on a daily basis. The signature of this memorandum of understanding reinforces our common objective to work among all partners to ease some of the burdens related to water management to ultimately improve the livelihoods of farmers. – Thomas Zurita, Head of Nespresso Colombia

Reinforcing market improvements with regulations

In the memorandum, the parties recognize that both market-driven initiatives and regulatory frameworks are needed to strengthen sustainable coffee growing practices. One of the signatories, Nestlé, has invested for many years in Colombia through its Nescafé Plan and Nespresso AAA Program.

“At Nestlé, we work every day to develop and support all those initiatives that seek to improve the quality of life of Colombian coffee growers, while contributing to the preservation of natural resources and environmental care. Our support for the Manos al Agua programme is an excellent example”, Antonio Núñez, president of Nestlé Colombia, emphasized in his support of this cooperation agreement.

Combining economic and environmental goals

The memorandum will be in effect for two years. It builds on results of the Manos al Agua project that successfully demonstrated how to improve watershed management and reduce water pollution. It will reconcile economic and environmental goals by applying the principles of valuing of water in coffee production.

“This memorandum is a step forward towards more sustainable practices in the coffee supply chain. We are sure that this will benefit the growers and will affirm Colombia´s leading role in sustainable coffee production”, said Joel Brounen, Colombian country manager at Solidaridad.

Learn more about Solidaridad’s global coffee programme.

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