About · develoPPP Project – Improvement of livelihoods of Colombian smallholders

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develoPPP Project – Improving working and living conditions for coffee smallholders in Colombia

Project title: Improving working and living conditions for coffee smallholders in Colombia

Project objective: Improved sustainable agricultural management of Colombian coffee growers contributing to long-term economic and ecologic viability of smallholder farms, increasing attractiveness for young adults, and market uptake in Europe

Project Management: 4C Services GmbH

Project financed by: The develoPPP.de Project* is financed by the DEG Impulse with public funds of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Melitta Europa GmbH & Co. KG – Division Coffee – and 4C Services GmbH

Implementing partners: Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (FNC), Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Nes Naturaleza (NES)

Project period: 06/2020 – 04/2023

Key results

updated 30 April 2023

  • Strengthened coffee farmers capacity in adoption of good agricultural and climate smart practices:
    • 485 coffee growers have received technical assistance on applying best management practices during a first individual on-farm training and of these 230 coffee growers have received a second individual training.
    • 104 in-person group trainings with more than 400 participants have been conducted to support coffee growers in improving agricultural practices and techniques for processing coffee as well as their entrepreneurial skills and increase their knowledge on the 4C certification.
    • 12 demonstration farms served as field schools during group trainings. The owners of these demonstration farms were trained as “farmer leaders” to transmit the results obtained and the knowledge acquired to other coffee farmers and motivate them in adopting new technological practices.
  • Enhanced relationship between coffee producers and industry through 4C certification:
    • 504 small coffee growers successfully achieved 4C certification in the course of the project. In addition, 178 farmers were supported in maintaining their 4C certification. This key milestone of the project promotes benefits derived from the protection of primary forests and protected areas. It also strengthens the protection of human and labor rights, while promoting more efficient and profitable coffee production.
    • Melitta has acquired traceable 4C certified coffee from the beneficiaries of this project at a premium price in the harvest season 2021-2022 and a second purchase in the latest harvest season 2022-2023. This coffee is promoted as “Selection of the Year 2023” in the European market.
  • Increase income from coffee production.
    • Coffee from the project beneficiaries has been sold at a premium price thanks to their 4C certification. This assures higher levels of income for the local producers, encouraging the economical sustainability of the producers.
    • Further the implementation of the learnings from the trainings on good agricultural practices lead to higher yields and reduced costs by increasing efficiency. This also leads to higher levels of income.
    • Trainings dedicated to the youth opened possibilities to diversify the household income for example with ecotourism.
  • Young adults in rural areas received new reasons to get involved in coffee production
    • 138 young adults took part in a training course on promoting ecotourism activities in the coffee plantations which lasted from 24th March till 5th May 2022. Participants were guided by experts from the tourism industry to acquire the necessary knowledge to develop, adapt and strengthen their own tourism business proposal to attract the interest of international markets.
    • Following the course on ecotourism a course on website development and marketing strategies was offered in February 2023 to those with already developed tourism initiatives. The aim was to close digital gaps by learning how to create and maintain a website to bring in more international customers.
    • 60 young adults participated in September 2022 in a training course on coffee quality and tasting. They acquired knowledge ranging from quality assessment, and coffee threshing, to recognizing flavor profiles and defects in coffee. This knowledge helps them in increasing their own coffee quality and therefore sell it at a higher price.
    • 34 young adults participated in a course focussing on business and entrepreneurship skills like conducting value chain analysis, developing future business plans and exploring strengths and weaknesses provided by the project partner CIAT.

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Project background

Coffee production is one of the most important agricultural activities for the Colombian economy. The coffee sector is among the five key driver sectors for the country’s progress, as identified by the Colombian Government.

Yet, aging farmers, ecologic and economic challenges, and the impact of climate change are making smallholder family coffee production in Colombia less attractive. Family farms stop coffee production, start to grow other crops, or migrate from the land. In order to maintain coffee production in Colombia in the future, sustainable farming practices are vital to effectively and efficiently manage the farm and to generate increased income, together with a certification and increased market access/opportunities.

Farming communities express often a need to be supported and trained in many different aspects to improve overall operations and performance. Training must achieve a positive outcome for the households to ensure long-lasting impact. Direct investments, e.g. new varieties of coffee plants, and improved agricultural practices, such as inter-cropping, are largely missing.

It was therefore the objective of the project to develop and implement, based on a thorough baseline-study, an improvement program for the smallholders, resulting in the long-term viability and the increasing attractiveness of the sector for young adults. Farmers, young adults, other stakeholders and interested actors in the sector have been involved. Implementation oriented trainings were a key to the program as well as the linkage of more sustainable coffee production to buyers in the EU market.


Project measures

The project structure includes three main pillars:

Baseline Study

GRAS Risk Analysis and pre-selection of regions for in-depth baseline study

A risk analysis based on the Global Risk Assessment Services (GRAS) tool was conducted in 15 relevant coffee departments to allow for a pre-selection of higher risk regions for the in-depth baseline study. GRAS collected and processed datasets on protected areas, high carbon stock areas, potential deforestation between 2006 and 2019, converted grassland and national social indices. Based on the established GRAS Risk Assessment Approach, the GRAS Risk Index has been calculated on municipality-level for the 15 selected departments in Colombia.

A pre-selection of seven regions took place: Antioquia, Caquetá, Cauca, Huila, Magdalena, Meta, Risaralda, based on the results of the GRAS risk assessment, potential sourcing regions of Melitta and potential synergies with other similar projects.

In-depth baseline study

The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia has conducted a detailed baseline study within the seven pre-selected regions and provided the project with key baseline information that allow strengthening the impact, sustainability, scope and quality of interventions through:

  • identified social, environmental and economic challenges that make coffee production risky, volatile and unappealing for young adults,
  • identified main drivers that make young people emigrate from the coffee fields, obstacles for young adults to engage in coffee farming and aspects that create attractiveness to them,
  • identified possible target region(s) for project implementation and main topics for the project’s training program.

Multistakeholder workshop to discuss results of the baseline study

4C prepared and conducted a multistakeholder workshop, having invited different actors from the coffee sector, including local government, coffee producers, actors from the coffee industry, NGOs, and research institutions. The workshop served to discuss about the results of the baseline study conducted by CIAT and to discuss about challenges and improvement areas for coffee farmers and possibilities to better integrate young adults into coffee production. The aim of the workshop was to identify important issues to be addressed in the training program of the project and to discuss about important criteria to be considered when selecting the implementing region(s).

The main findings from the baseline study and multistakeholder workshop can be found in the presentation and minutes below.

Decision on project implementing region

Based on the results of the baseline study and multistakeholder workshop, Magdalena was identified as one of the departments with the greatest need of intervention to improve productivity and living conditions, especially when considering economic opportunities for rural youth, gender balance, productivity, access to markets and adaptation to climate change. 4C together with Melitta and the project implementing partners have therefore decided to implement the develoPPP project in the department of Magdalena.

Socialization of the project was conducted via radio program, SMS, WhatsApp and telephone calls. Due to COVID restrictions group information events for coffee farmers and young adults have not been possible and therefore field trips were not undertaken as initially planned and could only take place later, directly combining these field trips with individual trainings for the farmers.

Training Programs

The training program is a key component to achieve changes in the sector. In this sense, the training approach of the project aimed to use different training approaches and methodologies, ranging from train-the-trainer trainings to demonstration farms serving as training ground and field schools for farmers and young adults.

In addition, the project supported young adults becoming active in coffee farming through organizing intergenerational discussion rounds within coffee communities and cooperatives. At the end of June 2021, an online meeting with more than 100 young adults of the coffee communities from Magdalena was held to discuss the challenges they are facing and needs to be addressed within the project.

Through this process, the trainings’ topics identified include, among others, the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices and improving marketing and business skills for emerging businesses.

In compliance with the restrictions due to the pandemic, field visits to the beneficiaries’ farms began in July 2021, led by the project four field officers, who are experienced agronomists from the region. During the farm visits, the field officers provided coffee farmers with the technical assistance they need to implement best management practices. In addition, impact measurement was an important part of the project, during the farm visits the project field officers were using an application developed by GRAS to collect the baseline data of the selected beneficiaries and in this way an assessment of change over the timeframe of the project was possible.

The field visits also served to identify best practice farms to serve as farmer field schools and training plots. The selected demonstration plots belong to farmers who have shown improved environmental and social conditions in their farms, promote sustainable coffee production and sourcing, and integrate sustainability into coffee production.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, in-person group trainings have not been allowed in 2021. However, coffee growers have showed their readiness for increased digital trainings. Trainings have been conducted online and had a very positive respond. Furthermore, dialogue through Whatsapp groups has increased, and the platform has allowed coffee growers to stay connected among them and with the project field officers. Seven Whatsapp groups were set up with coffee farmers in the communities of Cienaga, Santa Marta, Fundacion and Aracataca, providing them with information about the project, e.g. videos, posters, invitations to workshops and answers to their questions.

Once restrictions were lifted at the beginning of 2022, the envisaged group trainings could start with a focus on good agricultural and climate smart practices in sustainable coffee production and additionally tackling topics on entrepreneurship skills and the 4C certification. Until the end of the project in April 2023 more than 100 group trainings took place. Specific group trainings focussing on best practices were conducted on the selected demonstration farms.

In addition, in March 2022 trainings dedicated to the young adults could start. Trainings provided during the project were: coffee and tourism, webpage development, coffee tasting and business and value chain mapping.

The trainings to the project beneficiaries lasted until the end of the project in April 2023. The training concept, approach and content used during the project lifetime is documented in a Training Handbook which was presented at the final workshop of the project with the aim of disseminating the results.

To enable the implementation of the learnings from the training, the project supported coffee growers and young adults from Magdalena with the contribution of material goods such as agrochemical warehouses, protective equipment sets, coffee tasting sets and post-harvest quality sets.

Market Access

Long-term viability and continuously improving market uptake of green coffee shall be ensured through credible high-level sustainability certification, improved risk assessment technology, marketing and communication campaigns, and developing local and international partnerships.

Therefore, the linkage of sustainable coffee production to buyers in the EU market is strengthened with the 4C certification. More than 500 coffee farmers received their certification in the project lifetime and were therefore able to sell their coffee at a premium price to the project implementing partner Melitta.

Marketing and communication activities took place throughout the whole project period and include, among others:

  • Project promotion in upcoming coffee campaigns of Melitta
  • Project videos, visuals and communication material/press releases
  • Project webpage
  • Social media advertising
  • Presentation at internal and external events

Pursued project results

Together with its implementing partners, 4C aims to improve the livelihoods for smallholder coffee farmers in Colombia. The project pursued that more than 500 coffee producers in the selected coffee producing regions of Colombia own the improved agricultural practices activities that they will implement to achieve better yields of certified sustainable and deforestation free climate compatible coffee and that approximately 250 young adults are increasingly motivated to remain part of a sustainable coffee production process.

Pursued project results include:

  • Strengthened capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding, and other disasters and progressively improved land and soil quality, as farmers are applying good agricultural and climate-smart practices. This leads to improved yields and income and hence improved living and working conditions for smallholders
  • Improved income diversification and non-farm employment to reduce livelihood vulnerability due to poor harvest and negative impacts of climate change. The available local income has been diversified through knowledge and skills acquired during the training programs on entrepreneurship, income diversification, and off-farm income
  • Empowerment of the youth and sense of ownership and responsibility towards the program outcomes through the active involvement in designing, planning, implementing and monitoring activities
  • Improved working opportunities in the coffee sector for young adults, either through own farming or through being involved in non-farming activities in the coffee sector
  • Improved access to resources, services, and products through technical assistance, innovative technologies and new coffee varieties and fertilizer, if appropriate
  • Enhanced relationships between the coffee producers and industry. New partnerships within the coffee sector and coffee industry and direct links established with coffee producers and roasters improve credibility, promote long term collaboration, drive innovation, and expose partners to new perspective and expertise
  • More sustainable coffee production through 4C certification, entailing the protection of primary forests and protected areas, the protection of human and labour rights and efficient coffee production

The project is impact-driven, and so is 4C. 4C intends to conduct further projects in cooperation with brand owners such as Melitta Europa GmbH & Co. KG – Division Coffee – also in other regions, and with different objectives to improve the livelihood of coffee farmers, and to safeguard biodiversity and carbon stocks.

* develoPPP Program

develoPPP is a program launched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in 1999 in order to foster the involvement of the private sector in areas where business opportunities and development policy initiatives overlap. The BMZ appointed public partners to implement the program on its behalf: DEG and GIZ.