Traceability systems and landscape approaches for sustainable coffee trade

Coffee roaster
Coffee roaster. Photo: R R / shutterstock

Consuming countries increasingly seek to ensure that value chains are deforestation-free. We are at a turning point where such value chains can be steered to the benefit or detriment of commodity-producing countries, depending on how deforestation-free requirements are implemented. If implemented poorly, deforestation-free policies could harm socio-ecologically rich, agroforestry-based commodity production systems that support rural livelihoods. They could also shift even more value to consuming countries where nature-tech companies’ traceability services are typically headquartered.

This project promotes deforestation-free requirements and traceability systems that prioritize the ecological, sociocultural, and economic well-being of producing countries. Solutions are being tested in designated pilot sites in Ethiopia, with a focus on the coffee sector.

Aims of the research project

The project will identify ways to implement the EU Deforestation Regulation based on locally adapted, landscape-level sustainability criteria that support vulnerable producers. The project also aims to localize traceability (e.g. satellite monitoring) and certification services in Ethiopia, in order to create more value locally.

Finally, the project will pursue opportunities for more stable and remunerative prices and other financial incentives for deforestation-free coffee, strengthening the business case for ecological practices in producing countries. The project addresses pressing sustainable development needs concerning trade of forest-risk commodities following entry into force of the EU Deforestation Regulation.

Drying coffee centrally at an organically certified garden coffee cooperative, Kaffa, Ethiopia
Drying coffee centrally at an organically certified garden coffee cooperative, Kaffa, Ethiopia. Photo: Asaye Alemayehu, Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU)-Ethiopia

The project’s main objectives

  1. Promote a public, locally adapted “deforestation-free” standard (and related compliance assessments) within the framework of a landscape approach for Ethiopian forest coffee and agroforestry coffee that reflects socioecological realities, prioritizing vulnerable stakeholders; the objective includes raising awareness of the standard in Ethiopia, the EU and Switzerland.
  2. Foster institutional and technical capacities in Ethiopia through co-learning spaces to localize related traceability (satellite data-based monitoring platform) and certification services in Ethiopia; the objective includes raising awareness of accreditation options in the EU and Switzerland.
  3. Enhance the understanding and expertise of stakeholders regarding policy options for more stable and lucrative pricing, in addition to extra financial advantages, for forest and agroforestry coffee cultivated in deforestation-free landscapes. These efforts relate to trade policy measures and financing for conservation and climate change.

The project will also raise awareness, beyond the Ethiopian context, of its innovative solutions and opportunities for scaling up.

Feature on SRF's Rendez-vous (in German)

Gete Zeleke from WLRC Ethiopia is concerned that the EU deforestation regulation will lead to a decline in Ethiopian coffee exports to the EU. In Ethiopia, it is mostly small farmers who grow coffee without deforestation – but it is difficult for them to provide the relevant data. Together with CDE, WLRC researchers are working on a development-friendly solution.

Kick-off Workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

On 10 June 2024, the kick-off workshop of the project brought together a diverse group of stakeholders involved in the coffee production and value chain. Participants discussed ways forward to tackle EUDR challenges and seize opportunities for coffee production and value chain system. The event was opened by Tamara Mona, Swiss Ambassador to Ethiopia and South Sudan, and Adugna Debela, Director General of the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority. The photo shows Gete Zeleke, Director of WLRC.