Today, it is impossible for most coffee producers to maximize the value of their land growing coffee. Many coffee producers continue, despite losses and low income, because they have a tradition and passion for coffee production, or because it’s the only agricultural market they can access. These tenuous conditions are the foundation of the coffee industry.
A farmer’s most important assets are his or her coffee plants and the soils they grow in. But 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. Similarly, evidence on best practices for climate-resilient farming approaches for coffee, taking into account different climates, soil types, and farming systems is almost nonexistent. It is very difficult, and sometimes impossible, for farmers to achieve economic sustainability without information about and access to the varieties and farming practices best suited for their growing conditions and farming system.
The Global Coffee Monitoring Program is an unprecedented network (1,100 trials in 30 countries by 2022) situated directly in farmer fields. The trials provide detailed data on which combination of variety and climate-smart farming practices yield the highest profits for farmers across a broad range of environments, altitudes, soil types, and farming systems.
Each participating farm tests two improved varieties and agronomy treatments against the farmer’s existing variety and agronomy practices, which serve as controls. In all, each trial site has nine “treatment
areas”—3 varieties x 3 agronomy treatments. The approach is innovative on multiple fronts: testing improved technologies on a farmer’s own land (not in a research station), delivering agricultural research results directly to farmers, prioritizing farmer profitability and return on investment, and working together with farmers, exporters, NGOs, and governments to execute the trials.
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.
The trial will allow producers and supply chain actors to consider their farm size, farming system, elevation, soil type, shade %, climate, what market they sell into, and many other variables, and receive scientifically supported recommendations for what coffee variety to plant and how best to care for the trees in order to maximize profit.
This program is the last mile between subsistence-level coffee
farming and professional coffee farming. 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 with hard data on the
return on investment of extending technology-driven renovation loans to
farmers who otherwise have a difficulty access credit.
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. 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. It creates compelling data to enable the expansion of access to credit for farmers. It also significantly advances scientific knowledge about variety performance and climate-smart agricultural practices across locations, which will revolutionize farmer training around the world.
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.
The program is executive by WCR researchers and agronomists, together with supply chain partners.
How the trials work
- 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.
- 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.
- WCR will provide training to supply chain agronomists on trial implementation and care.
- Supply chain agronomists will provide technical assistance to the farmers for trial establishment and treatment applications.
- 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.
- A WCR Regional Coordinator will visit trial sites on an annual basis and compile annual performance report for roasters, exporters, donors, and stakeholders.
- 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.
- A WCR Regional Coordinator will work with the supply chain country team leaders to incorporate ROI data nto farmer and cooperative loan portfolios.
- WCR will compile data across global farm sites in order to produce ‘country’ profiles and a global annual ‘coffee health’ report.
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.
WCR is working with partners including roasting companies, exporters, host country coffee institutions and coffee farmers to extend the farm trial network across the coffee production globe with hundreds of plots in scores of producing countries (10 to 60 plots per country, depending on country size, coffee volumes and eco-geographic variability).
How to partner with us
Roasting companies or importers/exporters with field agronomists. If you source in targeted producing countries and have a team of field agronomists who routinely deliver services to farms and farmers, we can partner with you to install technology trial plots on farms in your supply chain. An in-country WCR coordinating agronomist will work together with your supply chain team to select individual farms to establish trials based on mutually agreed criteria.
Roasting or importing companies without field agronomists. Supply chain partners can choose to sponsor one or many field trials. WCR will work with you to determine if it’s possible to select a farm or farms in a country where you source, and even, in limited cases, from a farm in your supply chain. Sponsors receive regular updates on the progress of the trial, can arrange for visits to the trial site, and may be able to arrange additional projects or trainings to support partnered farmers.
Costs. The total program cost of a single trial for 5 years is approximately $16,000, or $3,200 per year. Costs include seedlings, soil treatments, farmer income offset for land taken out of production, agronomic support for trial implementation and monitoring, and business/ROI trainings. The trials will continue to be active for monitoring purposes for an additional 5 years (10 years total) at minimal expense. Supply chain partners may provide some or all of their contributions in the form of in-kind field agronomy support.