Carbon, Climate & Coffee – From Cool Farms to Environmental Service Premiums

Photo: CoopCoffeesIndustrial agricultural is a primary contributor to total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. With CO2 linked to soil erosion and loss of cover crops, nitrous oxide emissions linked to chemical fertilizers, and methane linked to unmanaged manures, these are central culprits in agriculture’s expanding climate footprint. But while industrial farming is a part of the problem, good agricultural practices including small-scale, organic coffee farmers could be a significant part of the solution to current, global, climate change challenges.

Organic coffee plots, managed as agroforestry systems, bring multiple environmental benefits. Imitating forest habitats, they sustain plant and animal species and can stock and maintain high levels of soil organic carbon (SOC). In order to mitigate anthropogenic climate change in the coffee industry and to support the livelihoods of small-scale, organic, coffee-farming families around the world, farmers need greater access to technical and financial resources that would allow them to transform their fields into soil-carbon sequestering ecosystems.

Through this pilot project, the know-how and experience of organic coffee producers and their cooperative structures, coffee roaster/importers, certification organizations, scientific and industry research, data systems experts and development organizations will be combined to achieve mutually beneficial supply-chain collaboration. Supporting small-scale coffee farmer’s capacity to

  • track and understand the environmental impact of their production practices
  • select and promote best organic practices for climate resiliency and improved crop health and productivity, and
  • acknowledge their environmental service (based on the resulting, net carbon sequestration) with coffee consumers, roasters and importers paying a “carbon premium” back to the farmer

allows the entire supply chain to assume climate action and take responsibility for our CO2 emissions.

The Cool Farm Tool, under the management of the Cool Farm Alliance, will help to identify the environmental impact of an individual farmer’s choices in land-use management – including the type and density of their plantings, fertilization practices, the management of biomass residues, water use, on-farm energy use for processing or handling, and transportation.

Data validation and input oversight will be achieved through a robust partnership between the team at Root Capital and the producer partners in particular, by leveraging the internal inspection and technical teams of the six producer organizations: Manos Campesinas, COMSA, Cenfrocafe, Norandino, Sol y Café, and C.A.C. Pangoa.

This pilot project is expected to directly benefit 250 small-scale coffee farmers, community trainers and their immediate technical support representatives. And, via these participating cooperative structures, the project would benefit more than 12,500 farmers with outreach, replication and eventual climate resiliency investments. The intention of this pilot project is to create a model that can be readily scaled to all interested producer partners within the CoopCoffees network, and beyond.

The Cool Farm Tool serves to identify and validate the environmental impact of many “down to earth solutions for climate change” – which can speak to farmers and consumers alike. Meanwhile, effectively tracking and reporting on farmer progress through the use of the Cool Farm Tool, will allow producer organizations to showcase their top performers as “climate-resiliency” innovators, and encourage further investment in their efforts as “carbon-smart” farmers.

The Structure of the Project

Participants and Innovation

While strengthening the partnership between CoopCoffees, the Sustainable Food Lab / Cool Farm Alliance, Root Capital and The Chain Collaborative, this project supports enhancements to the Cool Farm Tool and direct application in producers’ fields. The introduction of this innovative tool will enhance our capacity to diagnose, plan, train, and track producers’ continual progress in applied regenerative, organic practices at the farm level.

In addition, within the current framework of the Coop Coffees initiative Carbon Climate and Coffee, we will establish clear mechanisms to channel a portion of existing resources from their cooperative “Impact Fund” to coffee farmers as a “carbon premium” and to incentivize this important work in regenerating soils. The quick and reliable data output that the Cool Farm Tool provides, would significantly enhance the capacity within CoopCoffees to channel carbon premiums to partners with confidence. Furthermore, a successful pilot project focused on the use and application of this tool would facilitate replication on a significantly larger scale – and could even be replicated to other crops. This marks both innovation and potential added value for market actors across multiple supply chains.

Trainings and Incentives

Regional Workshops. This Component will include “Training the Trainers” workshops to support coop technical staff and farmer representatives in the use of the Cool Farm Tool and to reinforce farmer knowledge around best, climate-resiliency, field practices.

Local Workshops. Replicating the regional workshops, participants will bring this knowledge to their respective communities, in order to achieve: uniform application of the Cool Farm Tool, a standardized and efficient data gathering plan; and, clear strategies for farmers to implement the most appropriate field practices for improved levels of climate resiliency.

Data Collection and Verification. Following the local workshops, Root Capital together with farmer partners will activate the teams of local “data collectors” from within each cooperative organization, in order to gather the information from individual producers, and to conduct assessments and verification of the data, to confirm a farmer’s current carbon footprint.

Carbon Premiums: Based on the outcomes of the above component and given the analysis of collected data, CoopCoffees will capitalize and pilot a financial “carbon premium” payment mechanism for farmers who achieve targeted carbon sequestering “CO2 scores” as part of CoopCoffees’ “Carbon, Climate and Coffee” initiative. This process will also improve general access to climate-resiliency investments for small-scale farmers and their organizations.

Knowledge and Outreach. The project will serve as an important case study, generating real evidence and best practices on how carbon sequestration practices should result in better production and, potentially, improved sales of their harvest to a climate-sensitive marketplace.

This article is also available in Spanish or French language.


© Photos and Text by Monika Firl from Cool Farm Alliance member Coop Coffees.