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Olam helps Ugandan coffee farmers build long-term climate resilience

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MILAN – Looking to ensure that coffee farmers continue to invest in coffee in ways that enable them to grow production and quality in the face of climate change, Olam, a global agribusiness and one of the leading green coffee origin exporters, teamed up with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), investing to improve farmer resilience to climate change in the Mt. Elgon region in Uganda.

The Sustainable Food Lab has documented this project in the case study Improving Coffee Sector Climate-Smart Awareness and Decision Making for USAID’s Feed the Future Alliance for Resilient Coffee.

IITA and Olam identified three main challenges facing coffee farmers in Uganda: climate risks and weather variability jeopardizing coffee yields (and by extension farmer livelihoods); limited farmer adoption of climate smart practices; and supply and quality risk for Olam in the face of climate variability and low global coffee prices. In response, the partners worked together to create an affordable pathway for farmer adoption of climate smart practices to help build resilience and secure a quality sustainable supply of coffee for Olam in the face of climate change by:

  • understanding the diversity of coffee farmers based on resources and farmer entrepreneurship (willingness to invest in coffee) informing segmentation of farmers into “like” groups,
  • breaking down recommended CSA (climate smart agriculture) practices into smaller, incremental steps, making up “climate-smart investment pathways” known as the Stepwise Approach to make CSA adoption affordable for each of the identified smallholder coffee segments, and
  • utilizing demonstration plots to monitor the impact of the Stepwise Approach on coffee in the select regions and act as farmer field schools to build farmer capacity and confidence in practice adoption.

The value to Olam is in the balance it provides: as a cost-saving mechanism that helps Olam to more efficiently use resources in the short-term to accurately match farmer needs and motivations with targeted support while also building farmer climate resilience in the long-term, creating a more sustainable supply of coffee. For IITA, the partnership puts relevant tools in the hands of the private sector where activities and impact is better scaled.

Working through a USAID Learning Community for Supply Chain Resilience grant, the Food Lab is documenting projects like this in part to better understand what makes a successful partnership between companies and NGOs, a relationship that can be fraught due to misalignment with regard to stated objectives, appetite for risk and short- versus long-term thinking. This partnership marks a success for company engagement with NGOs and research organizations. To read more, please read the full case study. For more information on IITA, visit their website and you can find details on Olam’s coffee program or visit Olam’s website.