Sustainable coffee collaboration: Jacobs Douwe Egberts and partners unveil $1m Vietnam scheme

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

The three-year, US$1m project will train coffee farmers in climate change resilience techniques, agro-chemical management and work safety. ©GettyImages
The three-year, US$1m project will train coffee farmers in climate change resilience techniques, agro-chemical management and work safety. ©GettyImages

Related tags Vietnam Coffee Sustainability Food safety

Coffee and tea company Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE) and its partners are ploughing in US$1m on a coffee sustainability project in Vietnam’s Central Highlands designed to boost traceability and food safety.

The brand has been joined by merchant and agricultural goods processor Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) and agriculture firm Syngenta in the project.

The joint initiative will benefit some 3,000 coffee farmers in Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Gia Lai provinces, say the trio.

The three-year, US$1m project will train coffee farmers in climate change resilience techniques, agro-chemical management and work safety.

Improving the situation

Do Ngoc Sy, JDE’s Sustainability Manager for Asia Pacific, said, “JDE recognises the various environmental and social issues that go with coffee cultivation. As part of our Responsible Sourcing Program, we engage openly with direct suppliers such as LDC to tackle these sustainability challenges.”

Do told FoodNavigator-Asia​ that JDE feels that it has a responsibility to improve the situation in the nation where it sources coffee. One of the main issues in the country is the high use of pesticide.

However, due to limited resources to tackle the issues, JDE collaborates with other partners such as LDC and Syngenta.

Duoc Nguyen, LDC Vietnam coffee sustainability manager, said: “Alongside our like-minded project partners, JDE and Syngenta, we will work with Vietnamese coffee farmers to meet growing industry demand for product traceability and food safety, while also ensuring farmer welfare.”

“Our joint project with LDC and Syngenta will focus on the improper use of agro-chemicals, unsafe working conditions and climate change. We recognize that the complexity of these issues may take years and the commitment of multiple stakeholders to address, but we are on the right path of doing so,”​ said Do.

Hidde Eikelboom, LDC Vietnam CEO and country head of coffee, added that the project reaffirms the company’s commitment to increasing Vietnam’s production of sustainably grown coffee, while improving long-term profitability for the coffee farmers.

Likewise, Cindy Lim, head of sustainable productivity at Syngenta Asia Pacific, said: “This project will provide coffee farmers in the Dak Lak region with the practical skills to grow coffee, using inputs such as crop protection products more efficiently. This is critical for the coffee value chain.

“Farmers need to increase their production sustainably, supplying safe and affordable beans, while minimising their environmental impact.”

Scope and scale

One of the main aspects of the initiative will be the development of 30 demonstration plots, between one and two hectares each, in which new techniques for soil and fertilizer management, the use of crop protection products, intercropping and water irrigation systems will be implemented. The most successful techniques will then be replicated across 300 hectares of coffee farms in the region.

Furthermore, to promote a more responsible use of crop protection products and fertilizers, the project will test the soil and take expert advice on the optimal quantity of nutrients for coffee farming. A list of banned and dangerous chemical substances will then be compiled for each province, along with a recommended list of fertilizers and crop protection products, which farmers will be trained to access and apply.

Farmers will also be taught aspects of work safety such as environmental and crop risk assessment, and the use of standard safety equipment. Personal protective equipment (PPE) will be supplied to farmers and spray workers.

Moreover, to build local capacity in farm management, agro-chemical management and work safety, various technical tours, seminars and workshops, as well as Training of Trainers (TOT) and Farmer Field School (FFS) sessions will be organised for 3,000 farmers, 300 agriculture students, 44 farmer group leaders and four agronomists within the targeted communities.

Do said all this was only possible with partners working together, and with combined resources.

Separately, JDE also collaborates with IDH, the sustainable trade initiative, on issues such as deforestation, working conditions, incomes and wages and toxic loading.

The present coffee sustainability project follows a similar collaboration between the three parties in 2016, which reached out to 3,000 other farmers in the Central Highlands. This brings the total number of beneficiary farmers to 6,000 for both projects combined.

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