On Friday 30 August 2019 SNV signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IDH the sustainable trade initiative, provincial and district governmental agencies as well as coffee sector businesses as part of the CAFÉ-REDD project. The MoU will establish a cross-sector partnership that will develop opportunities for green and sustainable growth that will protect 11,450 hectares of local forests and improve the lives of 1,500 farmers (about half of the local producer community).
Vietnam is the world’s second largest producer of coffee, with over 600,000 hectares under production. Much of the coffee growing acreage has been converted from forests in the 1990s. Since then, Vietnam’s forest protection laws, and ambitious REDD+ strategy, have put the brakes on this expansion. However, at the CAFÉ-REDD project site in Lac Duong complex economic and social factors are still influencing rapidly changing land use, putting forests and livelihoods at risk. Especially as Lac Duong is at a high altitude and is one of the few areas in Vietnam is not producing Robusta but the more sought-after Arabica beans.
Nestled deep in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, comprising largely of protected forests, the district encompasses a national park and the Lang Biang UNESCO biosphere reserve. It lies on the hilly and twisty road between Da Lat and Nha Trang, two popular tourist destination for locals and foreigners alike. A confluence of circumstances is endangering this culturally and ecologically important landscape, of forest, agro-forestry and tree crops.
Anyone returning to the area after a few years would notice the rapid spread of commercial, greenhouse, agriculture in the valleys and over the hills. The landscape has changed fast as the market and infrastructure for higher value agricultural commodities has grown. Local land value has increased sharply. As local ethnic groups lack capital, or the skills to participate in these markets. At the same time the coffee industry is several years into one of its (not infrequent) price crises putting coffee farmers into debt and poverty and out of business.
As a result, many ethnic coffee farming families sell their land close to the local towns. They migrate into forest land, as has been their custom. This development jeopardises the supply chain of domestic and international companies who rely on the Arabica coffee produced in the area. It also threatens the local economy, because this process widens local inequalities, leaving many excluded from higher-value markets or participation in local planning. Finally, it threatens the well-being of local people – SNV’s survey of local communities found that two-thirds of household income was from coffee and other agricultural crops. With low commodity prices and less farm land in their new location, they have fewer opportunities to earn a decent income.
This is where the CAFÉ-REDD project, and the MOU to build a cross-sector partnership, comes in. The partnership will lead better protection of forests, higher value production from agricultural land, and inclusion of all the local stakeholders. The partnership uses an integrated public-private-producer partnership (4Ps) strategy towards achieving our sustainable landscape goals:
- Public – supporting integrated planning at the district level (including participation of local communities), capacity-building for co-management of forest lands and forest protection efforts.
- Private – work with key companies in the value-chain to adopt digital systems that link real-time satellite forest monitoring to mapped supply chains. Link companies to farmers and farmer organisations and secure high quality, deforestation-free coffee, at a ‘living wage’ for the farmers.
- Producer - support and train farmers to protect and restore forest lands, adopt more sustainable and climate smart farm management practices based on agro-forestry models (inter-cropping with high value fruit and nut trees) that diversify and improve their incomes. In addition, we will also support other landscape-appropriate livelihood options such as eco- and farm-based tourism, and mushroom or vegetable production.
The partnership supports the Global Coffee Platform’s “Call to Action” to address the price crises. We will cooperate with local authorities and coffee processing companies to source coffee that has been grown sustainably and provides farmers with a higher, more stable selling price. We support farmers also to develop more resilient livelihoods through inter-cropping and off-farm income, while professionalising their coffee business through training and farmer organisation.
We have started to engage farmers in the 10 villages in which we will working. Training will begin this autumn, to prepare for the local coffee harvesting season (November until January). Farmers will gain knowledge on good harvesting and storage techniques that maximise value of the cherries they pick. In 2020, once the harvest season is over and before the rainy season starts, planting of intercrop trees, and restoration of forest lands can begin, as we roll out our digital mapping technology to the companies and MoU partners.
SNV has also signed collaboration agreements with several coffee buying and processing companies. Nguyen Le Thach Thao, CEO of Chappi coffee company and cooperative said ”Chappi cooperative is honored to establish a partnership with SNV”, and SNV is honoured to have a partnership with the people, companies and public sector of Lac Duong to deliver a deforestation-free and sustainable landscape.