Category Archives: Climate change

Coffee Climate Care project – The faces behind the story

From Lam Dong to Dak Lak, meet some of the UTZ farmers tackling climate change. As part of the Coffee Climate Care project in Vietnam, these farmers attended field school, receiving training on climate change impacts in the region, causes of climate change, and adaptation practices. More specifically, the training sessions covered: irrigation, pest management, optimal fertilization, shade management, cover crop and erosion management. Here, their experiences with the project so far.

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From the Vietnamese highlands, a story about coffee and sun

Coffee Clima­te Ca­re (C3) project

To combat the rising temperatures and extreme weather patterns producers in Vietnam are facing due to climate change, UTZ Certified has been running a 3 ­year project to help producers recognize and identify­ the risks the­y face and introduce measures that will enable them to adapt.

The project, Coffee Climate Care – C3, helps the producers recognize their vulnerabilities to climate change and implement measures to cope with them. Henriette Walz, UTZ’ Climate Change & Environmental expert is at the moment in Vietnam visiting the farmers participating in the C3 project and assessing its status and effects.

Henriette Walz, Climate Change and Environmental expert - UTZ Certified

Henriette Walz, Climate Change and Environmental expert – UTZ Certified

“Most striking for me so far is a shift in mindset of the farmers concerning good agricultural practices. Through learning in-depth about climate change and at the same time feeling the impact it has on their farms, a lot of them now want to implement agricultural practices that might have been recommended before, but were not implemented because of a focus on short term profits. In a way, climate change makes sustainable practices a necessity”, says Henriette.

In the upcoming weeks Henriette will be sharing her experience in Vietnam through the UTZ blog. Today, she interviews Pham Van Hoan, a 62 year old farmer, father of two, owner of a 0.9 ha Arabica coffee farm in the region of Lam Dong.

Pham Van Hoan, Lam Dong, Vietnam

Pham Van Hoan, Lam Dong, Vietnam

HW: How do you see climate change happening on your farm?

I know about climate change from the training in the C3 program. The weather used to be foreseeable, but it is not anymore. For example, in the rainy season, there used to be sun in the morning and it rained in the afternoon. Now it is not so regular. This is a big problem for the growth of coffee plants and a big problem for coffee production in the whole area. Through C3 we now know where it comes from and what we can do to prepare the coffee plantations and try to minimize where we cause climate change ourselves.

HW: What is the danger for your coffee crops?

That the flowers don’t develop into fruits but dry out. Also, before we did not need irrigation, now we do. Last, but not least, there are new pests. I have been growing Arabica coffee since 1999 and we never had any mosquito bugs affecting the plants. Now we do have them.

HW: What is the most important thing you have learned in the C3 project that will help you to deal with the effects of climate change?

I have learned which measures I can take to deal better with the challenges we face. Those are for example cover crops; I plant cover crops at the side of the plot and leave the grass on the field to protect against erosion. In the past I used to clear the plot, now I only cut the weeds before fertilization. This brings nutrition to the plants and lowers the temperature of the soil.

I am also planting shade trees. They are really important for Arabica trees. They get stronger and develop less secondary branches. My neighbors have seen this and now want to do the same, so have opened a nursery for pepper seedlings to supply them.

Shade trees protect coffee plants against climate change impacts

Shade trees protect coffee plants against climate change impacts

Also, I have changed the fertilization management. I had to hire additional labor for this, as I now apply the fertilizer much more targeted in trenches and I balance the NKP content (note: NKP stands for nitrogen, potassium and phosphate, the three most common components of fertilizers) so that it is adequate for my coffee trees.

HW: What has changed for you since your farm has been UTZ certified?

When I started working with UTZ, I got training on Good Agricultural Practices. Since then I haven’t sprayed any pesticides, for 3 years no herbicides, only fungicides.

HW: How do you see the future of coffee farming in this region?

Maybe the area of coffee production will be smaller in the future, or the productivity lower. This year has already been very tough, very dry. When Catimor (note: Catimor is the type of Arabica coffee he plants) flowers, they need a lot of water. In addition, prices are very low at the moment (6000VND-30Euro Cents per kg fresh cherry), so we will see how this develops.

“The biggest challenge of climate change in the Vietnamese Lam Dong region might be the lack of water in the dry season, while at the same time a higher need for irrigation due to higher temperatures. Only a combination of many actions will prepare farmers against this including some work on community and maybe governmental level. Nonetheless farmers are incredibly motivated to implement measure to make the farms more suitable against climate change impacts and decrease their own footprint after noticing the impacts and learning about it through the C3 trainings.” Henriette adds.

In the following days, Henriette will be moving north to visit the farms in the region of Dak Lak, don’t miss her stories. “How farmers adapt best to climate change depends on the region and the situation of the plantations: I am now traveling from our pilot group in the Lam Dong Area, where it is crucial for farmers to plant more shade trees, to the lower Dak Lak area where plantations are already shaded, as temperatures have already been higher in the past. Curious to see which measures are prioritized there!”

More information about the Coffee Climate Care (C3) project here. Also how UTZ Certified works towards a more sustainable future by tackling the effects of climate change.

Henriette Walz

Climate Change & Environmental Expert

Motivation: “Climate change is already affecting agriculture in many regions of the world. At the same time food production accounts for a large part of greenhouse gas emissions. By assisting consumers in supporting sustainable production methods, UTZ can reduce the impact of agriculture on the climate and increase the resilience of farmers to the effects of climate change.”

Climate change and the bottom line

Recbetter careent research by the UK’s Carbon Trust shows that four out of five companies now believe that a changing climate and resource scarcity are likely to impact their bottom line. In fact, over half those surveyed felt that they would have to fundamentally change their products, services and business models to become environmentally sustainable.

Recognising the problem is just the first step however, and the research by the Carbon Trust shows that many companies are still struggling to take the right action. Despite the long term risks and opportunities presented by climate change, many businesses still adopt short term thinking. This is bad for the environment and also bad for business – 84% of companies have identified business opportunities from becoming more sustainable.

rooibos snipFortunately sustainable sourcing can play an important role in helping companies address climate risks in their supply chain. UTZ farmers are helped to adapt to the effects of climate change and to reduce their own environmental footprint – so by buying UTZ certified products, companies are supporting more climate friendly production. Not the whole solution to climate change but an important step in the right direction.

Read more about the Carbon Trust research herebetter care1

Let’s spare a thought for soil in 2015


Blog by Han de Groot, Executive Director of UTZ Certified. 

One of my more unusual resolutions for 2015 was to spend more time thinking about soil.

Yes, that’s right. Soil. Mud. Earth. The dirty stuff in the back garden. The UN wants to get all of us thinking and talking about soil, so much so that it has named 2015 the International Year of Soils.

Why soil, I hear you ask?

You might think there is plenty of it to go around, but in fact soil is a non-renewable resource. Soil contains an estimated half of the world’s biodiversity; it absorbs and purifies water and air; and of course, it is the basis of food production on our planet. Healthy soil even contributes to mitigating climate change, by maintaining or increasing its organic carbon content.

Yet intensive farming methods, soil erosion and deforestation can strip soil of nutrients. If farmers are going to sustain their livelihoods, and if we’re going to meet the needs of the world’s growing population, we need to respect the soil that nourishes us.

That’s why soil management is a vital part of our Code of Conduct, the requirements followed by farmers in the UTZ program. Farmers ensure that nutrients in the soil are replenished, and soil erosion is avoided. This contributes to producing a high yield of a good quality crop out of their land – Soil-textboxnot just this year, but over the years to come as well. Ultimately that means they will be able to maintain or even increase their income. Better for farmers, and better for all of us, who depend on soil in ways we rarely think about.

So that’s why, along with the UN, I will be taking the time in 2015 to think about soil; a resource that has been taken for granted for far too long.



An uncertain future for coffee, due to climate change

By Britta Wyss-Bisang, Standards Director at UTZ Certified

Nowadays, we all know that climate change is a serious problem. World leaders are waking up to this reality, with many of them gathering at the UN Climate Change Summit in New York. Temperatures are rising, ice caps are melting and wildlife is at risk. But did you know that climate change could also have a major impact on the price and quality of your daily cup of coffee?

Coffee plants need very specific conditions to thrive. The combination of altitude, temperature, rainfall and soils must be just right. That’s why countries like Colombia, Kenya and Vietnam have such thriving coffee industries. Unfortunately, climate change is a growing concern for coffee farmers, especially smallholder farmers in these regions.

Increasing temperatures are causing streams to dry up. This means dryer soil, less flowers on coffee plants due to water stress, and an increased likelihood for pests and diseases. Weather patterns are becoming less predictable, with extended droughts followed by erratic or destructive rains and strong winds. This often leads to coffee branches breaking off, or leaves and coffee cherries falling off the plants, as well as landslides and soil erosion.

All of this means that production costs for farmers go up while the quantity and quality, and so the coffee price at the farm gate, goes down. That’s bad news for farmers, and bad news for everyone who enjoys a good cup of coffee.

So what can be done? There are two sides to tackling climate change in the coffee sector, and we’re working with our partners to invest heavily in both.

First, for individual farmers, it’s vital that they find ways to adapt their farming practices to adjust to the changing climate. For example, they can use other crops like avocado and bananas to shade and protect the coffee plants against heat stress, or introduce irrigation methods that make sure that the plants get the water they need at the right time. Training on these methods is a vital part of the UTZ program, and it’s making a real difference to farmers.

In particular, in Vietnam we are in the middle of the Coffee Climate Care (C3) project in partnership with the DE Foundation, supported by Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG). In this project we are working with farmers to find ways of defining the risks from the changing climate, and to implement adaptation measures to strengthen coffee production systems.

Secondly, we have to recognize that agriculture does make a significant contribution to causing climate change in the first place through, for example, the release of greenhouse gas emissions via waste water, production and application of chemical fertilizers, and deforestation. Therefore UTZ Certified also takes measures to mitigate these emissions.

For example, producing and processing high quality Arabica coffee results in a huge amount of waste water. If this waste water is released without treatment, it pollutes local water sources and soil, and contributes significantly to climate change through the release of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. We’ve just come to the end of a four year project in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala where we tested a new technology that turns this coffee waste water into biogas that can be used by local people, and we’ve seen some great results. Not only does this technology prevent the damage caused by the waste water itself, but it also saves trees that would otherwise have been cut down for fuel.

Unfortunately, climate change is a reality, and tackling it on a large scale will require huge joint efforts and political will from the world’s governments. We must hope that this will start to happen at the UN summit. But for smallholder coffee farmers, building up resilience to increasing variation and change in the climate is the most pressing challenge. Through our program we are supporting farmers to adapt to the changing climate and to reduce emission from agriculture where possible.

To find out more about UTZ Certified and climate change, please click here for our position paper.