Redefining the sustainability and investment agenda

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.

Number of farmers supported


Total volume of certified coffee (metric tonnes)



In 2015, Solidaridad made great strides toward implementing its Climate Smart Agriculture programme in Mexico, Colombia and Peru. Through the increase of coffee density, the introduction of climate resilient varieties, the increase of shade production and water balance, and the improvement of waste water and soil management, we have managed to combine increased and more stable productivity with a lower environmental footprint. There is now a promising proof of concept that other Latin American countries can replicate. By using the Cool Farm Tool, we have been able to monitor the environmental footprint of our pilot coffee farms before, during and after intervention.

In Ethiopia and Kenya, our coffee programme focused on enabling smallholders to become more productive and profitable by including a comprehensive food security component. in Tanzania and Uganda, we intensified our training programmes with farmers and extension field agents on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Internal Management Systems (IMS).

Non-competitive collaboration in the Sustainable Trade Platform in Colombia has resulted in the development of specific tools to assess the costs and benefits of voluntary sustainability standards. Training materials have been aligned among different extension services. Content and approach have also been updated and the materials are now distributed digitally among a wider group of industry professionals, organizations and producers.

Regional Commodity Programmes

  • Andes

    After years of developing sector alliances, advising key coffee producing companies and sharing technical expertise, the Sustainable Trade Platform (STP) has contributed to the country becoming the global leader for sustainable coffee production (certified/verified volumes 57% vs. 40% global average).

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  • Central America

    The Back to REDD+ coffee project in Mexico validated a technological package to hasten renovation and rehabilitation of plantations decimated by leaf rust while also decreasing emissions, thereby restoring livelihoods to vulnerable smallholder families. Innovations in pruning, leaf rust resistant varieties, and intensification of production lead to more efficient agroforestry systems that can also address food security and help adapt to climate change.

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  • East & Central Africa

    Solidaridad East & Central Africa supported smallholder farmers in making their coffee production more sustainable while strengthening producer organizations, creating an enabling environment and enhancing environmental sustainability. This was accomplished in partnership with sector leaders, coffee traders, cooperatives and unions. Solidaridad also worked with coffee smallholder farmers to improve food crop production, economic resilience and livelihoods.

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  • The Netherlands

    In the Netherlands, the volume of certified coffee on the Dutch market (UTZ, Rainforest, FairTrade or Organic) has stabilized at 50%. We are now seeing a new trend where roasters set up and invest in their coffee supply chain with tailor-made sustainability programmes, instead of increasing the traded volume of certified coffee. As the Dutch coffee sector is the most advanced in certification, similar trends are expected in other European countries.

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The global coffee market looks to be heading toward a minor supply deficit in the upcoming years. World consumption increased at an average rate of 2.5% in 2015, bringing the total to about 150 million bags. Demand is expected to reach 175 million bags in 2020. The main reasons for this slight deficit are climate events in large producer countries such as Brazil and Indonesia, the coffee rust outbreak combined with ageing plants in Central America/Peru, and productivity problems in East Africa. The imbalance between certified production and certified sold coffee is a clear threat for the current sustainability agenda.

The trend of company-specific sustainability policies confirms the need to reposition the common sustainability agenda in order to tackle challenges beyond certification. Solidaridad recognizes the role of certifications in generating impact, but we also welcome the shift within the sector to a framework that enhances continual improvement and is more impact driven. Key information on the externalities and true costs has to be made visible to all stakeholders in the supply chain.

With the increased pressure on land resources, a more sustainable solution is needed to produce more coffee per unit of land, water and agro-inputs. The global COP 21 agreement signed in 2015 offers the opportunity to incorporate a more inclusive approach within environmental policies in coffee producing countries. These global efforts need the support of public and private stakeholders at the local level in order to formulate effective policies for coffee farmers.

Programme investments in thousand euros


Contracted partners per region excluding producer organizations



In 2015, Solidaridad became one of the co-founders and board members of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge (SCC). The SCC was established with the aim of making coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product. It complements current sustainability initiatives at the global level and will build consensus among the major market players to scale up sustainable sourcing. The SCC will also strive to leverage investments at the farm level. In particular, there is much potential for the SCC to act as a convening platform to link the efforts of major North American players to the national platforms that have been or are being developed in Latin America. In addition to this, Solidaridad has become a member of the Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Environment (SAFE) alliance, co-founded by private companies, donors and NGOs in Latin America.

In Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru, we have worked closely with UTZ, 4C, Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance and the Sustainable Commodity Assistance Network to carry out a thorough analysis of the sector. The study aimed to identify the need and opportunities for non-competitive collaboration between public and private partners in the fields of good practice, robust infrastructure and enabling policies.

Solidaridad has also intensified its collaboration with companies such as Nestlé, OLAM, Volcafé and Louis Dreyfus; donors including NORAD, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Irish Aid, IDB; knowledge institutions such as CENICAFE and Tanzania Coffee Research Institute; and producer organizations such as FNC, JNC and the Ethiopian Coffee Unions.


Thanks to the establishment of more private extension services, we have been able to reach an increasing number of smallholders, but technical assistance remains limited. The use of (mobile) tools and trainings can increase the scale and effectiveness of technical support to smallholders to widen the implementation of good agricultural practices.

The Climate Smart Agriculture agenda will need to be accelerated and better funded to enable smallholders to adapt to current and future impacts of climate change, while providing additional revenue streams at the farm and landscape level. Solidaridad has been able to build a solid business case for Climate Smart Agriculture, combining higher productivity with a lower environmental impact. New investment models will be developed with key partners to attract a mix of funding opportunities.

Solidaridad has gained crucial insights through its facilitating role in the sector platform in Latin America, but producers are under-represented in global and national platforms. We will work to build up the capacity of local producer organizations and CSOs enabling them to advocate for their interests during the development and implementation of policy at the national and local level.

Joel Brounen

International Programme Coordinator, Coffee