Category Archives: Coffee

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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Better coffee and life quality in Brazil: meet the farmers

A recent study carried out among UTZ certified coffee farmers and workers in Brazil showed the positive effects of UTZ certification in social, environmental and economic areas.  90% of farmers interviewed mentioned that the UTZ program had been beneficial to them and they would recommend UTZ certification to other farmers.

Farmers’ views:


Read the full report, find the Key findings and learnings in the Report in a Nutshell and download UTZ’s Response to the report.

Meet some of the farmers in the states of Minas Gerais and São Paulo:


Specialty coffee and sustainability: reflections on the SCAA 2015

Miguel Zamora, Business Development

MiguelI’ve been attending the Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA) event for 10 years now, and I’m always struck by the passion and enthusiasm of everyone who attends. From farmers, industry and NGOs alike, it’s great to be among a group of people who are all focused on coffee, and so many who are focused on sustainability all across the supply chain.

A highlight for me was the panel event on farmworkers in coffee. It might have been the very first time in SCAA history that a farmworker actually presented at a panel: Marlene, who I have known for a few years now, made a heartfelt plea to the industry about the need and importance to support and improve the situation of coffee workers worldwide. The other participants, from industry and NGOs, made the case about why industry should get involved in understanding and improving the situation of farmworkers in coffee. The ethical case (a human case) about the need to support the most marginalized group involved in coffee. And the business case of minimizing brand risk and supply risk by avoiding the worst cases of labor abuse and securing the well-being of those who pick the coffee we use all over the world.

Another highlight was participating and contributing in several discussions with industry, farmers and NGOs about climate change adaptation and mitigation, gender in coffee, productivity and profitability at farming level, food security, water use and preservation in the coffee lands.

It was also fantastic to meet with industry and sustainability leaders, and with our partners, including Massimo Zanetti, Gavina Coffee, S&D Coffee, among others. At UTZ we are glad we can be a sustainability partner for the coffee industry and collaborate in designing solutions for the challenges and opportunities we face together.

What’s clear is that sustainability and quality go hand in hand. And the challenge to secure the long-term sustainable supply of specialty coffee is real. We are eager to continue supporting our partners and the industry in general to make sustainable farming the norm and create a more sustainable coffee industry. I came away really excited about the future of specialty coffee!

Brigitta Nemes, Relationship & Customer Marketing Manager

brigi_nemesAt this year’s SCAA it was great to see that gender and youth were on the agenda – both are incredibly important topics in coffee production, and close to our hearts at UTZ Certified.

At a panel discussion on gender, we heard that women do a big proportion of the agricultural work in coffee production, but often farms owned or taken care of by women have lower production. It’s a complicated issue with many causes, but one of the factors is that women are too often excluded from training. That’s why the UTZ program includes specific control points requiring equal access to training. Why should we be interested in this? CQI (Coffee Quality Institute) shared some fascinating figures on what would happen if women had equal opportunities to men:

  • Yield increase of 20% – 30%
  • Increase agricultural output 2.5% – 4%
  • Reduce the number of the world’s hunger bu 12% – 17%
  • When women have greater status, the family allocate more income to child health, nutrition and education

It was also good to see dialogue around the issue of young people in the coffee sector. With the average age of coffee farmers continuously on the rise, as an industry we need to think about the future – how can we make coffee farming a viable option for the tech savvy younger generation? Through technology they already have acquired more skills than their parents had at their age. They might not be that interested in becoming solely a coffee farmer. Diversification (e.g. growing other crops or engaging with other activities e.g. crafting) was one of the main ideas on the table, with the importance of collaboration always high on the agenda.


Some of the UTZ team with representatives from Massimo Zanetti MZB

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.