The World Economic Forum has produced a video highlighting a Public-private partnership (PPP) Coffee Task Force’s efforts to advance agriculture in Vietnam, under the focus of the New Vision for Agriculture initiative.
The video has been used at the World Food Prize Symposium in October during a special week dedicated to Global Food Security, including UN World Food Day - and will be used at the WEF meeting in Davos in January.
“The Vietnam coffee project is a clear example of how we can create impact: by leveraging our position and knowledge. Yara is engaged beyond product delivery. We are part of the solution for green growth,” says Yara’s CEO Jørgen Haslestad.
Lifting coffee yields in Vietnam
Yara has worked with Nestlé, 4C and Rainforest Associations (sustainable coffee certifications systems) and Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture across the value chain, to increase coffee bean productivity and quality in Vietnam. The country is the second largest global coffee exporter, but may face challenges in the future due to inappropriate farmer practices and aging coffee trees.
The history of the cooperation stems from a regional WEF meeting in Vietnam in mid-2010, where Chrystel Monthéan, Managing Director Yara Vietnam, Sean De Cleene, Vice President Global Business Initiatives and Terje Knutsen, Business Unit Manager North & East Europe took part.
Vietnam's Minister of Agriculture, Cao Đức Phát, was eager to turn talk into positive action for national farming. He called a meeting with international private companies and split the work into a task force per crop. Yara's two representatives worked with Vegetables and Coffee.
"Our first challenge was to establish trust with Nestlé, which we did by taking the lead with demo-plots to show them in the field that what we were saying in meetings was true: proper crop nutrition can increase yield and quality," Chrystel explains.
"We involved ourselves very intensively in this project. One agronomist has worked full time on it, and I have attended all related task force meetings," she adds.
Working for a climate friendly agriculture
The next challenge was convincing the local authorities, in particular the Forestry Research Center, that existing coffee practice - too much fertilizers, too acidifying, not carbon footprint friendly - was not sustainable.
"We spent a lot of time discussing agronomy and nitrate benefits with them, making them comfortable working with Yara by sharing our knowledge with them. This time was an investment to have them validate our program as a potential national method," says Chrystel, who now is co-chairing the Coffee Task Force.
Challenges remain; a micro-finance task force has been started to help farmers access new technology like nitrate-based fertilizers. Another hurdle is the tiny size of most coffee farms - over 70 percent are only about 1 hectare in size. "This makes everything slower and more complicated - training, financing, etc. - so the coffee task force supports the creation of farmer groups," Chrystel says.
Coffee value chain
The PPP has been the opportunity for Yara Vietnam to establish contact with main coffee value chain stakeholders and understand their needs: from local coffee collectors to international traders like OLAM, Neumann Caffe and Atlantic Commodities Vietnam Ltd. (ECOM group).
“Those players are rather concerned about getting a reliable and sustainable supply from Vietnam. We have come up with part of the solution for them: we increase yields by an average of 10%, farmers’ income by an average of 15% and reduce Carbon Footprint by half compared to traditional practices,” Chrystel explains.
"Personally, it has been inspiring to contribute to making real changes, by sharing knowledge," she concludes.