4C – A Path to a Sustainable Coffee Community in Vietnam
Since joining the 4C program in 2010, major Vietnamese coffee exporter Simexco Dak Lak Ltd (SMC) has involved 4605 farmers first in the 4C verification and then, starting from 2018, the certification system. The participating farms, which were selected for the improvement of agricultural and fair trade practices and to create a sustainable coffee community, are located in SMC’s main sourcing areas: the communes of Eakao, Buon Trap, Eatan, Eatoh, DlieYang, Ea Hiao, Eadrong in Dak Lak Province, Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
Founded in 1993, Simexco Dak Lak Ltd (SMC) has built a dynamic purchasing network directly from the farm gates and plantations and invested in modern coffee processing factories and staff capacity building. Implementation of the sustainability criteria towards more responsible coffee production set by the 4C Code of Conduct contributed to the improved production methods and better farmer livelihoods.
SMC’s Sustainable Team highlights that “since joining 4C, SMC has seen positive impacts on farmers’ lives with regards to economic, social, and environmental aspects”. They are optimistic about future development, recalling the progress achieved so far: “the general awareness of farmers has greatly improved. Today farmers are confident about applying fertilizers according to the usage criteria and handling pesticide bottles and containers properly to prevent harming the environment. They have successfully applied good agricultural practices on their coffee farms and already experience multiple advantages of sustainable farming.”
Coffee farmers in SMC’s main sourcing areas have to water their crops four to five times per season. According to the original irrigation method, each turn used about 600 liters of water per tree, not only wasting this valuable natural resource but also requiring significant human effort. With the help of a water meter, farmers are now able to measure the amount of water just enough for each irrigation session, which results in water savings of about 30% compared to the previous irrigation method. Besides, farmers can apply fertilizer through the irrigation system to save time and labor, to reduce farming costs and fertilize regardless of the weather. New water storage ponds have also helped farmers to alleviate the problem of irrigation during the dry season and contributed to improved farmers’ livelihoods by offering opportunities for fish and seafood farming.
In the past, men mainly managed household finances and participated in training sessions. However, within the framework of the 4C program, farmers started participating in trainings on gender equality and female empowerment. Women now work on the farm together with their husbands. They have appropriate financial management plans, directly participate in trainings with the rate up to 50%, have additional access to technologies, and are able to further self-learning and sharing from each other. Women actively voice their opinions and raise issues for discussion together. Trainings have also increased men’s ability to take responsibility for childcare, housework and household management.
Improving the environment and economy
The farming environment has also been significantly improved with balancing the microclimate in the garden through the intercropping of coffee and other crops, resulting in improved farmer income through years of participating in the sustainable coffee production program. The increased environmental and social consciousness of farmers participating in the 4C program also has a positive spillover effect, affecting non-program farmers and contributing to their motivation to engage in the more sustainable production of coffee as well.
“4C is proud to support Vietnamese farmers and delighted to see how Simexco Dak Lak is driving sustainability in coffee production,” says Viet Ha Nguyen, Sustainability Manager in Asia and Oceania, 4C Services GmbH.
Simexco Dak Lak Ltd, a state-owned company founded in 1993, is recognized as one of the leading coffee exporters of Vietnam, the largest Robusta producing country in the world. Annual exports of Simexco Daklak range from 1,3 to 2 million bags (60 kg) of coffee, representing 8% of coffee production in Vietnam. More information under www.simexcodl.com.vn/.
4C is the largest certification system for the sustainable cultivation and processing of coffee. 4C coffee is produced in 24 countries by more than 400.000 farmers. This covers a total green coffee production of 26,8 million bags (60 kg) on 970 thousand hectares of farm area. Independent third-party audits, conducted by auditors of 23 certification bodies cooperating with 4C, ensure farmer compliance with the sustainability criteria of the 4C standard. More information under www.4c-services.org.
 Year of reference: 2019.