A bright future for coffee farmers depends on water, smart techniques and all of us

After visiting the Lam Dong region where rising temperatures and longer dry periods are big problems due to climate change, Henriette Walz – UTZ’ Climate Change and Environmental expert – moves North to Dak Lak. There, the situation is more critical. Temperatures are even higher. Lack of water in the dry season remains to be the main problem, and water saving through, for example, efficient irrigation is crucial for adequate coffee production.

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Irrigation at coffee plantation, Vietnam

A step forward

Farmers part of the Coffee Climate Care Project (C3), are being trained in techniques, such as irrigation, pest management, optimal fertilization, shade management, cover crop and erosion management. The aim of the project is for them to be able to adapt to climate change effects but also mitigate their contribution to it.

“A key success factor of the C3 project has been the close collaboration with local actors to identify risks and implement adaptive measures to climate change. First, this participatory approach helped us and the trainers to provide specific information that matches the local context. Second, this made sure that trainers and farmers can really identify with the advice. That way they are also more motivated to follow it.” Says Henriette.

When asking farmers about their experience with the training sessions, H’ Tu Kbuor, father of 3 and second generation coffee farmer, replies:

I sometimes did things wrong or didn’t know how to best do things. For example, I did not know how much fertilizer I should apply [and] when. And this was the same for other activities. From the climate change trainings we learned that we have to plant new trees, use less chemical fertilizers, apply them better and save water in irrigation.”

The future of coffee

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H’Tu Kbuor, Y’Sol Mlo and their youngest daughter

H’ Tu Kbuor (41) and Y’ Sol Mlo (45) started growing coffee at a very young age. They have three children, the oldest (25) is manager of the cooperative, the second one (20) is studying to become a nurse and the youngest one (14) is in third grade of elementary school and wants to be a teacher.

During the last 25 years H’ Tu Kbuor has noticed changes in coffee production. According to him the weather has changed, there is less rain, the temperatures are higher and the dry season is longer. These changes have affected coffee production; productivity was higher in the past. “When we started coffee, the soil quality was very good and we had a high productivity. But now the fertility is low and the coffee does not grow so well anymore,” he adds.

A brighter future, or not yet?

Adaptation and mitigation practices are essential for farmers as H’ Tu Kbuor. However, if actions are not taken on a more global scale, climate change will remain to be a threat for this and other families’ livelihoods around the world. H’ Tu Kbuor adds, “If the next 4-5 years are very dry and less rain is coming, there will be a serious lack of water. Then I don’t know whether coffee production can continue. It really depends on the weather. If the weather is like in the past couple of years, there will be a lack of water and people will change to other crops or find other jobs.”

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