Hivos International

Climate and Coffee: The Heat is on!

On the 3 July 2014, 140 participants from various countries and active in all aspects of the coffee value chain gathered at the Hivos Coffee Conference in Amsterdam to discuss the dilemmas in today’s coffee climate. From coffee producers to NGOs, from financiers to processors and from donors to media, all came to Amsterdam to have a heated discussion about the state of affairs in the coffee sector. The key goal of the conference was to generate collective action across the coffee chain and find lasting solutions to sustainability issues in the coming years. More specifically, to address integrated solutions for climate change challenges which are green, gender sensitive, attractive to youth, scalable and financially sustainable. Download the Programme here.

After a warm welcome by facilitator Simone van Vugt, the conference was officially opened by Edwin Huizing, Executive Director of Hivos. He underlined the importance of coffee in our daily lives and addressed the urgency of tackling the problems within the sector with fair, green and inclusive solutions. His message was that together we can cooperate with producer and consumer governments to build capacity at the producer level, especially in the demanding environment of unorganised smallholders. Download the speech here.

Introducing the Coffee Barometer 2014
Hivos Knowledge Officer Sjoerd Panhuysen then presented the Coffee Barometer 2014 report to the attendees. This joint publication of Hivos, Solidaridad, Oxfam Novib, IUCN-NL and WWF discusses recent developments in the coffee market, standards and certification, consequences of climate change and provides an overview of case studies advocating adaptation strategies.

Climate change puts coffee production under great strain, as coffee cultivation is threatened in regions that are most vulnerable to it. In countries as diverse as Brazil, Honduras, Uganda and Vietnam, areas currently suitable for the cash crop will decrease substantially by as early as 2020. This could potentially disrupt production and trade practices significantly. The situation, as shown by the Coffee Barometer 2014, is alarming. The Barometer consortium therefore called upon the top ten coffee roasters to increase demand for sustainable coffee and to communicate transparently on the sustainable certified and verified volumes purchased. Download the full publication here.

More about the Coffee Conference

Read the complete report of the event. » expand

Keynote speakers
Three keynote speakers gave their views on “Today’s coffee sector: current and future climate change scenarios”.

  • Keynote speaker 1: Peter Baker, Senior Scientist, Commodities and Climate Change of CABI.
    In his presentation “Changing local climate conditions, impacts at coffee producers’ farms”, Peter Baker explained how climate change affects coffee farmers and described how they adapt. He also discussed erosion due to flooding and the impact of long periods of drought. He then posed the key question we need to address: “How can we save our coffee?” Can new insights, new standards or new technological inventions perhaps offer a way forward? Download the power point presentation here.
  • Keynote speaker 2: Jamie Bechtel, director of New Course
    Jamie Bechtel discussed gender roles within the context of work and family, and how the impacts of climate change can differ per gender. She spoke about her personal experiences in the field and the importance of including men, women and children equally in today’s debate. During a short discussion afterwards, it was made clear that even if women are not the key to solving problems within the coffee sector, they should at least be included within the discussion as much as possible. Download the power point presentation here.
  • Keynote speaker 3: Rick Peyser, Director of Social Advocacy and Supply Chain Community Outreach at Keurig Green Mountain
    Rick Peyser’s presentation, “Climate change and how to handle the supply change risk potential for coffee companies”, examined the roles and adaptation processes of coffee farmers. He stressed the importance of diversifying crops as an extra source of income, and explained how the quality of coffee can improve by inter-planting with fruit trees or allowing chickens to roam nearby. The second issue he raised is related to the use of storage silos to compensate meagre harvests. He, too, ended with a question for the participants: “How can coffee farmers best adapt to climate change in a sustainable manner - through divergence or convergence?” Download the power point presentation here.

Innovative talks
Niels Haak of Dutch Coffee Industry representative KNVKT, discusses the ‘Green Deal’  about the course of coffee from tree to cup, while young entrepreneur Michel Scholte of True Price talks about the social and environmental costs that are related to coffee. For more information check the website of KNVKT and True Price ( &

Breakout sessions
Attendees could chose to participate in one of three sessions related to a ‘hot topic’ in the sector. People from throughout the sector were evenly spread over these three:

  1. “Climate Change and Coffee Farming: Losses and Solutions”, hosted by Solidaridad
    The session discussed climate smart agriculture, sustainable land-use and the benefits of climate smart coffee practices. Download the presentation here.
  2. “Transformation of Coffee Cultivation and its Contribution to the Conservation of Biodiversity in the Colombian Andes”, hosted by IUCN-NL
    Based on their collaboration with the Colombian National Federation of Coffee Growers (FNC), the presentation addressed incentives and investments that stimulate so-called good practices of managing the landscape. Download the presentation here.
  3. “The farmers of the future: including the family”, by Hivos and Oxfam Novib       
    The session discussed the importance of including youth and women in today’s coffee climate to ensure a viable coffee sector for the future. Download the presentation here.

The goal of the breakout sessions was to identify powerful synergies between environmental issues, gender equality and climate finance in the coffee sector. For that reason, each session was approached from one angle, taking into account the other topics as well. Within each session the following queries were posed:  

  1. How can we ensure our interventions are environmentally sound (ecosystems and climate change)?
  2. How can we sustainably invest in/finance the interventions?
  3. How can we ensure inclusiveness of our interventions?
  4. How can we take the interventions to scale?

The answers to these questions from each group are summarised in the following matrix, which was dealt with during the final panel discussion. Download the matrix here.

Expert Discussion
A panel of six experts, including Mauricio Galindo (International Coffee Organization, ICO), Ted van der Put (The Sustainable Trade Initiative, IDH), Henk van Trigt (Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, DGIS), Adriana Mejia Cuartas (Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, FNC), Tijmen de Vries (European Coffee Federation, ECF) and Dhanush Dinesh (CGIAR Research Program - Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, CCAFS), reflected on the matrix from the perspective of their organisation or business.

Together with the participants, the panellists engaged in a heated debate based on questions such as, “What are the most urgent matters at hand?”, “What about the farmers?” and “Who will pay for any of these solutions?”. Although there was some disagreement on which measures need to be taken, both panellists and audience members did agree on one thing: the current state of the sector requires urgent solutions on a local, national and international level. Not just by one or two key players, but by all actors active in the coffee sector. A combined approach, integrating certification, creative financing schemes and productive landscape approaches, was considered to be the only way to ensure sustainability, not just for the coffee sector, but for the agricultural sector as a whole.

Closing words
Linda Butler, the Coffee Sustainability Manager at Nestlé S.A., and Carol Gribnau, Green Entrepreneurship programme director at Hivos, echoed the call to joint action in their closing speeches. If we want to keep consuming our precious coffee, we need to make an effort for change. Indeed, the heat is on!

Graphic harvest
Throughout the day, Wytze Veenstra of Modelminds has been harvesting information, quotes and images for a graphic summary. Download the illustration here.