Indonesia: taking coffee farmer engagement to the next level

Sustainable agriculture
Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), a Geneva-based global merchant and processor of agricultural goods, including coffee, launched the Stronger Coffee Initiative in 2022 as a new platform for collaborative investments in sustainable coffee production. Swisscontact was tasked with developing the initiative’s operational plan and helping to build its global monitoring and evaluation framework.

The project features three areas of action:  

  • Farmer prosperity: improvement in the quality of life for smallholder farmers, including gender equity and youth
  • Low-carbon production
  • Regenerative agriculture

Together with the Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) and local teams in eight coffee-producing countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, Swisscontact is in the process of developing a project plan. This plan features tools to analyse farmer networks that have already been applied successfully in Swisscontact projects in Indonesia and Morocco. The goal is to develop tailor-made interventions for specific farmer segments and to maximise best practices with more sustainable production standards.

Three questions to Charlotte Guibbaud Navaud, LDC's Regional Coffee Sustainability Manager for Africa and Asia:

What negative effects has climate change had on coffee farmers and thus the global coffee industry?

Climate change presents a significant risk to the future of the coffee sector, and its impacts have already become reality in the sector. Over the past 10 years, LDC has been actively collaborating with local coffee communities across Asia, Africa and Latin America, gaining first-hand insight into the impacts of climate change: unpredictable weather patterns and rising temperatures.

In Indonesia, our agronomists working with Arabica farmers in North Sumatra Province have seen farmers switch from Arabica to Robusta coffee production in the lowlands, as temperatures rise and negatively impact these coffee plants, which are very sensitive to temperature variations. The switch from Arabica to Robusta coffee production also reduces farmers’ incomes, as Arabica coffee generates substantially higher revenues than Robusta.  

Changing weather conditions also create a favourable environment for pest and diseases that affect coffee plants, leading to lower yields and lower-quality coffee beans. Smallholder farmers who often lack resources and access to support systems are particularly vulnerable to these challenges.  

Unpredictable weather patterns can also disrupt traditional harvest times, impacting the availability of coffee beans for processing and export, and ultimately leading to market instability and supply chain challenges. The Ugandan coffee sector particularly suffered from this situation in 2022. Many coffee growing areas across the country were severely impacted by drought between June and the end of the year, resulting in a substantial reduction in green coffee bean export volumes compared to 2021.  

These challenges affect the profitability of coffee farms and thus threaten farmer livelihoods, making coffee farming less attractive as a viable option for rural communities in historic coffee growing regions. Without support to these communities, the world’s coffee supply faces a significant threat.

What can the LDC's programme do to mitigate these effects and reduce CO2 emissions within coffee supply chain?

As one of the world’s top coffee merchants, we are determined to play our part. In October 2022, LDC launched the Stronger Coffee Initiative (SCI) to build connections within coffee value chains, with the aim to invest in a stronger coffee sector. Under this initiative, our team of agronomists, field technicians and research experts work on the ground alongside partners to help farmers mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce emissions by rolling out solutions that were piloted throughout the year.  

In Asia and Africa, LDC has been supporting more than 20,000 smallholder farmers across Vietnam, Indonesia, Uganda and Ethiopia since 2016, with a goal to promote sustainable agricultural practices as a means to enhance the resilience of coffee farmers in the face of climate change.  

One of the practices promoted is the planting of shade trees within coffee plots, creating a canopy that helps regulate temperatures on farms, preserve soil moisture, and enhance soil fertility and structure. Introducing additional trees on farms also contributes to capture and store CO2, thereby mitigating carbon emissions linked to coffee production. For families with limited income, the trees also yield produce such as fruits, vegetables or timber as an extra source of income. This practice, called agroforestry, is therefore core to the SCI’s 3 action pillars: Farmer Prosperity, Low Carbon and Regenerative Agriculture.  

The SCI aims to improve the prosperity of 30,000 farmers and support the production of 180,000 MT of certified low carbon coffee, while rejuvenating soils across 100,000 hectares of coffee farmland by the year 2027.

Swisscontact is working together with LDC to help shape this process. What does LDC hope to gain from this cooperation?

The successful implementation of LDC’s Stronger Coffee Initiative (SCI) requires collaboration, in order to maximize positive outcomes. This is the premise behind LDC’s partnership with Swisscontact since 2019, initially centred on Indonesia, with a focus on measuring the adoption of Good Agricultural Practices within a segment of LDC’s Robusta supply chain in Southern Sumatra. Since then, the partnership has grown and LDC is now collaborating with Swisscontact to shape a comprehensive global Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework and enhance its operational strategy for the SCI.

Promoting practices like agroforestry, which encompass several objectives, requires a robust M&E framework capable of effectively tracking progress towards multiple goals. As agroforestry benefits emerge over long term, a comprehensive M&E framework is imperative to gradually track changes and impacts, and ultimately demonstrate the long-term sustainability of the intervention.  

Data generated through rigorous monitoring and evaluation not only provides tangible evidence for better decision-making, but also helps us adjust strategies to ensure the realization of anticipated outcomes, and facilitates communication and collaboration between various stakeholders. The SCI being strategically designed to foster collaborative investments, the provision of reliable and meaningful data to partners is crucial.  

Leveraging the hands-on expertise and on-the-ground insights of Swisscontact, who work closely with local farming communities, ensures that LDC's commitments are translated into tangible results in a pragmatic and credible manner.

Sustainable agriculture
Stronger Coffee Initiative
The aim of the project is to co-create a farmer engagement model for Louis Dreyfus Company’s newly launched Stronger Coffee Initiative that will ultimately increase farmer prosperity. To achieve this goal, the project involves optimized data collection tools, farmer data analysis and conception of coaching and trainings.