About · Empowering Smallholder Coffee Farmers in Colombia to Claim Deforestation-Free Coffee through Digital Tools

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Empowering Smallholder Coffee Farmers in Colombia to Claim Deforestation-Free Coffee through Digital Tools

This collaborative project, led by the Deutscher Kaffeeverband (German Coffee Association) in partnership with the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (FNC), Global Risk Assessment Services (GRAS), and 4C Services strives to enhance sustainable coffee production in harmony with the natural resources, raise awareness of deforestation, and ensure compliance with EU regulations. The project was initiated on May 1, 2023, and is expected to reach completion by December 31, 2023.

Project title: Empowering Smallholder Coffee Farmers in Colombia to Claim Deforestation-Free Coffee through Digital Tools.

Project objective: Aim of the pilot project is to support Colombian smallholder farmers to understand and comply with the upcoming EU-regulation on deforestation-free products and have continued or even improved access to EU-markets.

Project region: Cauca in southwest Colombia; Municipalities: Caldono, Piendamó, and Santander de Quilichao.

Project Management: Deutscher Kaffeeverband e.V.

Project financed by: Business Scout Fund (BSF) – The BSF is part of the Business Scouts for Development (BSfD) programme, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Co-operation (BMZ) and implemented by sequa on behalf of GIZ.

Service providers: Global Risk Assessment Services GmbH (GRAS), and 4C Services GmbH.

Implementing partner: Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (FNC).

Advising partner: Gesellschaft für International Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

Project period: 05/2023-12/2023


Deforestation is a critical issue contributing to climate change and biodiversity loss, and the coffee industry should continue working on being an ally of natural resources. To support  this, our project focuses on supporting smallholder coffee farmers in Colombia to comply with the EU regulation on deforestation-free products. By introducing user-friendly digital tools and innovative technologies, we aim to raise awareness, enhance market access, and empower farmers to demonstrate their commitment to producing coffee in a sustainable and deforestation-free manner.

Project Region:

The project focusses primarily on the Cauca region in southwest Colombia, encompassing three municipalities: Caldono, Piendamó, and Santander de Quilichao. The Cauca region is renowned for its production of high-quality coffee and holds significant potential for sustainable coffee farming. However, the region also faces socioeconomic challenges, making it a priority area for support and intervention. The Cauca region has a complex history intertwined with Colombia’s armed conflict. Historically, the presence of  guerrillas in the region hindered the establishment of institutions and development initiatives. However, in recent years, the region has made significant progress in terms of peacebuilding and security.

With over 90,000 families involved in coffee cultivation across 93,000 hectares of Arabica coffee plantations, Cauca represents a substantial coffee-growing community. The region is characterized by a diverse population, including Afro-descendants, Nasa indigenous people, and mestizo communities. By implementing our project in this region, we aim to improve the livelihoods of coffee-growing families, support their resilience, and ensure their continued access to European markets.

Key Objectives:

Compliance with EU Regulation: We aim to support Colombian smallholder farmers in meeting the requirements of the EU regulation on deforestation-free products. By providing them with the necessary tools and knowledge, we enable smallholders to prove the origin of their coffee and demonstrate that their operations are free from deforestation.

Awareness and Climate Action: Through targeted trainings and workshops, we seek to raise awareness among smallholder farmers about the importance of protecting forests, mitigating climate change, and preserving biodiversity. By highlighting the connection between deforestation, coffee production, and climate resilience, we contribute to global climate action efforts.

Digital Tools and Market Access: Our project focuses on the development and implementation of easy-to-use mobile applications for mapping farmers’ fields and collecting relevant data. These tools, designed by GRAS, enable smallholders to digitize their farming operations and provide evidence of deforestation-free practices. Furthermore, we work towards improving market access for the coffee produced by the project beneficiaries through collaboration with 4C.

Project Measures and Implementation Approach:

Initiation and Project Management:

  • Introduction of digital tools to local partners.
  • Workshops to identify specific needs.
  • Selection of farmers/project beneficiaries.

System Customization:

  • GRAS will gather and process data for the assessment of smallholders’ farm areas against deforestation.
  • The database system and mobile mapping app will be tailored to the project’s requirements and the anticipated EU regulations.

Data Collection & Analysis:

  • The customized digital systems will be provided to local implementation partners for data collection.
  • Farmers’ data, including farm outlines, agricultural practices, and basic information, will be collected using the mapping app.
  • GRAS will provide technical support during this phase.
  • FNC will manage and assess the data to verify deforestation-free fields.

Impact Evaluation and Dissemination of Results:

  • Project partners will analyze the results.
  • Recommendations for compliance with the EU regulation will be issued.
  • Joint communication strategy to disseminate the project’s outcomes and engage relevant stakeholders will be developed.

Anticipated Developmental Impact:

This project contributes to various sustainable development goals, including climate action (Goal 13), life on land (Goal 14), responsible consumption and production (Goal 12), industry, innovation, and infrastructure (Goal 9), and decent work and economic growth (Goal 8). By empowering smallholder coffee farmers and integrating digital solutions into supply chains, we foster sustainable services and structures, scalability, and connectivity with other development projects. Additionally, the project addresses the core criteria of the Business Scout Fund, such as just transition, feminist development policy, leaving no one behind, innovation and creativity, and digitalization for development.

Project Partners:

About Deutscher Kaffeeverband:

The German Coffee Association is the voice of the German coffee industry and represents more than 360 members – from green coffee traders and coffee roasters, including all well-known coffee brands as well as more than 150 specialty roasters, to decaffeinators, laboratories and logistic companies. The German Coffee Association promotes sustainability in the coffee industry and supports its members in implementing sustainability-related legal obligations with projects such as a joint human rights risk analysis and grievance mechanism.

About FNC:

The FNC represents Colombia’s 548,000 coffee growers and it is considered one of the largest rural NGOs in the world. FNC’s objectives are to improve the socio-economic wellbeing of Colombian coffee growers, to represent them nationally and internationally and to protect the environment. One of the biggest assets of FNC is the purchase guarantee, which allows farmers to sell coffee at market prices at any time of the year. About 18% of the coffee produced in Colombia is commercialized by the FNC.

About GRAS:

GRAS is a comprehensive solution to implement and monitor sustainable and deforestation-free supply chains by the verification of compliance of relevant sustainability criteria using the latest remote sensing technologies.

About 4C:

4C is a leading sustainability certification scheme for the coffee industry. 4C certification focuses on good agricultural and management practices, including requirements on economic, social and environmental conditions for coffee production and processing in order to establish credible sustainable and transparent supply chains. 4C offers Chain of Custody certifications and operates a database to ensure traceability of single consignments.