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Global Coffee Monitoring Program

Business-driven science, science-driven business
measuring plants

The problem

A farmer’s most important assets are his or her coffee plants and the soils they grow in. If these assets are old, tired, and out-of-date, then sooner or later the farm will enter a downward production spiral. If a farm is unprofitable for too long or if the farmer is unable to support his or her family from what profits there are, they will eventually leave coffee farming altogether. This cycle is repeating itself daily around the world.

The varieties currently being used by the majority of the world’s coffee farmers are not well suited for the 21st century. They are susceptible to major diseases, intolerant of rising temperatures, and often low yielding. But better varieties exist, which can yield  more coffee at similar or even improved quality with far lower risk to farmers because they are resistant to major diseases. If they are adopted by farmers and grown with appropriate attention to soil health, these varieties can substantively increase a farm’s profitability.

But in order for farmers to change the plants on their farm or shift long-standing practices they need two things they don’t normally have: 1) an investment loan to help them replace old, outdated coffee trees and to assist them in maintaining healthy soil, and 2) a personal conviction that renovation and soil health matter.  Farmers must both see and feel the return on investment in technologies in their own fields and in their own wallets before they consider making changes—as they should. But historically, neither farmers nor their banks have been presented with real data that help them make the case for investing in improving the core assets on their farms.


The solution

The Global Coffee Monitoring Program is a network of small, on-farm demonstration trials that allow a farmer to be convinced through the scientific testing of two  improved coffee varieties and two soil treatments directly in their fields. Each farm trial site uses the farmer’s current varieties and soil practices as controls for comparison.  When it’s time to harvest, the farmer sees and feels the difference of high returns. This creates demand for improved varieties and better soil health that fuels greater supplies of better coffee for the future. Supply chain partners can sponsor plots in regions where they source coffee, and in some cases directly on farms in their supply chains.

GCMP plot diagram isometric

Each trial plot tests two new varieties against the farmer's current one, and two improved soil/agronomy treatments against the farmer's current practice.

This program is the last mile between subsistence-level coffee farming and professional coffee farming. It’s the missing link between Good Agricultural Practices and Best Agricultural Practices, which gets profitable technologies into the hands of farmers to move the needle on world supplies of coffee, allowing farmers to make real money in the process, which reinforces the virtuous cycle of growth.

It is business-driven science, rigorously testing the best technologies for increased farmer profitability right in the farmer’s own field. It is also science-driven business, aimed squarely at providing banks and other creditors with convincing, hard data on the return on investment of extending technology-driven renovation loans to farmers who otherwise have a difficulty access credit.

World Coffee Research is working with partners including roasters, importers, and exporters to extend the Global Coffee Monitoring Program network across the globe with hundreds of trial plots in scores of producing countries.  This network of small plots will produce big data on coffee production and quality that can be aggregated globally, helping World Coffee Research and its partners to monitor the effects of climate change on productivity, geography, farming systems, cup quality, diseases and other important variables around the entire globe.  Ultimately, the results of this research will advance global knowledge about the effects of varieties, climate and environment on production and quality of coffee.

GCMP plot on farm

Each trial site is located in farmer's fields, and is is big enough for the farmer to feel the difference in his or her pocketbook at the end of harvest.

GCMP program schematic

The program is executive by WCR researchers and agronomists, together with supply chain partners.

How the trials work

  1. WCR agronomists work with parntering supply chain agronomists to install the plots. Plots consist of two  improved coffee varieties and two soil treatments, along with the farmer’s current variety and soil practice as controls for comparison.
  2. Once farm sites are chosen, soil and leaf samples from the farmer’s field and other basic data are collected so that appropriate soil treatments and varieties can be recommended.
  3. WCR will provide training to supply chain agronomists on trial implementation and care.
  4. Supply chain agronomists will provide technical assistance to the farmers for trial establishment and treatment applications.
  5. Supply chain agronomists will monitor the trial on a quarterly basis taking agronomic notes on trial performance variables for illiterate farmers and explaining to literate farmers how to do it.
  6. A WCR Regional Coordinator will visit trial sites on an annual basis and compile annual performance report for roasters, exporters, donors, and stakeholders.
  7. In years 2 and 3, WCR will organize farm business/ROI training for all farmers in the program. The training will use the farmers’ own data from their own fields to calculate costs of production and outputs comparing the farmer’s existing varieties/soils, and the two improved varieties/soil treatments.
  8. A WCR Regional Coordinator will work with the supply chain country team leaders to incorporate ROI data nto farmer and cooperative loan portfolios.
  9. WCR will compile data across global farm sites in order to produce ‘country’ profiles and a global annual ‘coffee health’ report.

The impact

For individual farmers, the program means lowered risk, the production of more and better coffee, and increased profits to support their livelihood in coffee farming.

It creates compelling data to enable the expansion of access to credit for farmers. It also significantly advances scientific knowledge about coffee variety performance and soil treatments across locations, which inform farmer training and future coffee breeding efforts.

For the coffee industry as a whole, the program accelerates the adoption of new varieties that are high quality, disease resistant and higher yielding, providing an overall boost to the global supply of high quality coffee.
GCMP map
  • Location: El Salvador, Costa Rica, Congo (the Democratic Republic of the), Guatemala, Laos, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Panama, Rwanda, Honduras, Kenya, Peru
  • Leaders: Tim Schilling, Christophe Montagnon, Salvador Loucel, Sara Bogantes
  • Partners: Roasting companies, exporters, host country coffee institutions and coffee farmers
  • Cost: $18 million
  • Timeline: 2016-2026