Plenary: Supporting Resilience in the Coffee Sector

“When we think about resilience – we’re thinking about both the plant, the producers and the livelihoods going forward.”  Mark Lundy of CIAT goes on to lay out what climate change looks like for Arabica coffee: as prices increase, coffee moves up in elevation, price increases, quality drops, and then yield drops, giving way to higher production of Robusta with rising prices for consumers.  The coffee sector faces major challenges due to climate change that require site specific adaptation strategies.  What can we do now to minimize the impacts of climate change?  The question was posed to Jérôme Perez of Nespresso, Vera Espíndola Rafael of SAGARPA and Daniele Giovannucci of COSA.

Nespresso: “Resilience is about diversity.”  To make money many companies focus on lower-costs and simplification.  But, this is diminishing resilience by reducing diversity. “The system we have in place is creating climate change and climate change is happening now.”  How does Nespresso face this?  To build Nespresso’s business, they must focus on the consumer.  To satisfy the consumer with quality coffee, they must have resilient farmers, and that includes having a diversity of farmers within the supply chain.

Nespresso’s AAA Sustainable Quality Program (one A each for quality, productivity, and sustainability) implemented with Rainforest Alliance, integrates quality at the core of training and support to ensure that farmers understand what they are producing and the potential of the product. Then, they pay for that value rather than determining price by the global financing market.  Nespresso sees valuing natural resources as the key to unlocking investment.

SAGARPA: After losing over 2 million bags in Mexico to the rust (or roya) outbreak, there was a real need for investment to save the Mexican coffee sector.  The national program, spearheaded by SAGARPA (The Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food), started with a focus on building the basic infrastructure for a thriving coffee sector: importing and verifying seeds, building nurseries, and providing technical assistance. The key, Vera explains, is collaboration.  SAGARPA brought in farmers and other stakeholders from the sector to decide what was needed and then designed accordingly.  “When you focus, put the right people at the table, and serve them good coffee, you can foster good collaboration and reach shared goals.”

COSA:   Daniele started his talk by calling out the elephant in the room and a challenge that we all face daily – farmer poverty and world prices that are chronically low.  How do we create a sustainable system if prices can’t support the farmers on which we depend? Barring the ability to increase prices, at COSA they aim to innovate toward resilience by bringing in the right people to think together and listen to farmers to learn what they need.  What does this look like?  COSA worked with SAGARPA to put in place a Data-2-Knowledge program that takes data from the field and feeds it continuously into project design resulting in: better management, ability to target, more accountability, and better risk management.  The tool also provides management feedback loop and can help to identify return on investment, that can be key for private sector investment.  The data and results are meant to be shared with farmers, as partners, as a way to get to share value.

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CIAT: Resilience in the Coffee Sector

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