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 Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH (DEG) from 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 (ABC), Nes Naturaleza (NES)

Project period: 06/2020 – 04/2023

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 is 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, and other stakeholders in the pilot regions and other interested actors in the sector will be involved. Implementation oriented trainings will be a key to the program as well as the linkage of more sustainable coffee production to buyers in the EU market. Project results will be made available for application in other regions.

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 (ABC) 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

The main findings of the baseline study can be found in the presentation and minutes below.

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 ABC 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.

Throughout July and August 2021, field trips are undertaken to advocate the project implementation within coffee communities and to identify best practice farms to serve as young-farmer field schools and training plots. In addition, the project is presented to potential project participants via radio, WhatsApp and video.

Training Programs

The training program will be the key component to achieve changes in the sector. Farm level stakeholders need to work together to support farmers to continuously improve quality, productivity, and efficiency, requiring transfer of agronomic and business skills through effective training programs.

Climate compatible coffee production and adaptation strategies will play a key role when designing the training concept and content. Climate-smart agriculture reflects an ambition to improve the integration of agriculture development and climate responsiveness with the aim to sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience and reduce/remove greenhouse gases, which is crucial for the viability of coffee production. Different degrees of impact require different adaptation strategies, which will be covered during the trainings. Adequate varieties, improved shade cover, and cover crops are some of the practices required. With increasing degree of impact, mulch, temporary shade, living hedges, and/or windbreaks might be necessary to be added to the farming system. The project supports these activities through the provision of financial contributions for such investments.

The training concepts are currently conceptualized for four different target groups:

In addition, the project supports young adults becoming active in coffee farming through organizing intergenerational discussion rounds within coffee communities and cooperatives to discuss how to better integrate the youth into the coffee sector. End of June 2021, a meeting with young adults of the coffee communities from Magdalena is held to discuss with them challenges they are facing and needs to be addressed within the project.

The training concept, approach and content will be developed until August 2021, based on the results of the baseline study and multistakeholder workshop, with participation of potential project beneficiaries. The trainings to the project beneficiaries is going to start in August/September 2021 and last until December 2022.


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.

Marketing and communication activities take 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 pursues that approximately 500 – 1000 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 200 – 500 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.

Results of the project and the impact on the ground will be reported, and learnings from the project will be used to further improve the robustness of the 4C System.

* 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.