Results » Testimonials: Sandra Spies

Sandra Spies

German Development Cooperation GIZ

"This credibility must be earned in order to earn the right to advise and support."

In what way has the Coffee NAMA helped participating coffee mills and farmers so far?
We have had in interesting dynamic in 2016 and 2017 with our coffee mills. I believe that for many of them the measurement of their greenhouse gas emission inventories has been an interesting, albeit sometimes complicated task. But I do think this has helped them greatly to create order internally and really visualize the resources they use in their processes. It has helped create transparency in what is happening at the mill level. And the workshops and the exchange of experiences with other mills have helped show how everybody else is doing with the same tasks.

Some of our coffee mills received trainings on strengthening sales capacities, which a smaller group practiced and applied during a trip to Germany. Several of our mills have sold their coffee thanks to the support of the project and thanks to the very good coffee that is being produced.

In 2017 we also worked closely with coffee producers, which has been an interesting task. In our workshops we introduced the concepts of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) with new training tools, such as active learning methods, and with a strong involvement of the sector´s different actors. This way of working hand in hand has allowed us to cover certain issues differently from before. New GAPs have been introduced, including the topic of climate change. We have tried to broaden the vision and give producers information about climate change and what it means for them. One the one hand we informed them on how to deal with climate change, on the other hand we try to help them understand how they themselves generate greenhouse gas emissions. The objective is to explain what all this has to do with them.

In your opinion – what are the main mitigation actions currently being implemented in the coffee sector?
There are initiatives on the subject of coffee waste treatment and also on the topics of energy and infrastructure modernization. Additionally, we are planning on developing an app in 2018 that will give us more information and more transparency on what the producers are actually applying on their farms from what they learned in the workshops.

In what way does your institution support the Coffee NAMA?
My institution is the Agency for International Cooperation GIZ. Our objective is to carry out the NAMA Support Project in cooperation with our counterparts. With the NAMA Support Project we aim to move the Coffee NAMA forward.

In the past year we have strengthened the communication work with concrete activities, there are more people who know about coffee now that they have received informative material. This was partially achieved during the workshops, but also in big events such as the Ministry for Environment´s Feria del Ambiente in June 2017 and the Expo Feria Alemana in August 2017. Our webseite was also launched in 2017.

We have accompanied a process of defining the Coffee NAMA and developing its framework and a clear concept that other countries will be able to use as a reference. We have also worked hard with producers, training over 3,000 in our workshops during 2017.

We have also continued to collaborate with coffee mills. The international coffee fair Sintercafé was an important event for us to communicate the work we and all the other institutions do in the Coffee NAMA. Our commercial trip to Germany was another important part of 2017.

A short while ago the Costa Rican Coffee Institute (ICAFE) celebrated inauguration of a new building and almost all of the different important actors there mentioned the Coffee NAMA in some form or another – meaning that the topic has reached the Costa Rican public. Maybe it is not completely clear what a NAMA is, but people are aware that there is an initiative working on climate change and coffee.

Something else worth mentioning are the long queues of people at the Conference of the Parties (COP) in November 2017 in Bonn, Germany, where over 150 kg of NAMA coffee was prepared and we managed to promote this low carbon product from Costa Rica internationally.

How is your institution planning to support the Coffee NAMA in the future?
We will continue our work for almost two more years. We will work hard on the credit line that was only recently formalized with the signing of an agreement between the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) and GIZ.

Something that has been developing slowly are public private partnerships. There has been a lot of interest in the Coffee NAMA and several important players have approached us wanting to learn these processes. A triangular cooperation is currently being considered in order for Costa Rica to exchange its experiences with the region. This is something that could be carried out with the Regional Cooperation Programa for Technical Development and Coffee Modernization in Central America, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica (PROMECAFÉ). Private companies from the sector such as exporters and agricultural suppliers have expressed their interest in the activities of the Coffee NAMA.

Finally, in 2018 we will focus on working with producers, continuing our work with coffee mills, but also put a lot of energy in the topic of investments in low carbon technologies at the level of coffee mills.

“The biggest challenge is the issue of transportation, but also to be successful in applying carbon neutrality as a plus to products and services of Costa Rica outside its borders.”

Earn credibility to earn the right to advise

In her position as director of the Coffee NSP (NSP Café, in Spanish), Sandra Spies believes that the project's partner ministries (Environment and Energy, as well as Agriculture and Livestock) were able to manage their respective - sometimes divergent - approaches to natural resource management in a balanced manner. The willingness of these actors, coupled with the commitment of ICAFE as executing partner, allowed the project to have governance that was instrumental in achieving its objectives.

Understanding coffee in the context of climate change issues

For Spies, one of the great contributions of the project was at a conceptual level: understanding the diverse roles of coffee in climate change. On the one hand, an active role as an emitter and mitigator and, on the other, a passive role as a highly vulnerable sector.

It may sound abstract, but it is this understanding - arrived at through real measurements and data - that has made it possible to design concrete actions to respond to climatic situations whose effects are equally concrete and tangible. Without going too far back, the coffee rust crisis of 2012 was a wake-up call for the type of problems that will become increasingly frequent for the sector and which will force it to do its part to mitigate, prepare and adapt.

Earning credibility

As the Coffee NAMA was the first agricultural NAMA in the world, it is impossible not to think about other agricultural NAMAs and how to make these future processes more effective based on the lessons learned from this first experience.

One of the first that Spies identifies is the need to bring the producer sector to the table, not only to assign responsibilities, but also to understand their situation and together devise actions that best fit their specific opportunities and barriers. This credibility must be earned in order to earn the right to advise and support.

Not doing so is the same as pretending to design a project from a desk and at the same time expecting those who will carry the weight of the transitions to assume it without question and with the utmost commitment. It is a combination that is neither possible nor fair.

Institutionalizing continuity

The fact that the 'National Low Emission and Climate Change Resilient Coffee Strategy' was part of the deliverables of the Coffee NSP is due to the interest of making the coffee sector equipped with a guiding instrument that provides a clear path for continuity. In addition to institutionalizing the postulates of the Coffee NAMA - focused on the mitigation of emissions - the aim is to add a focus on adaptation and resilience.

The process of creating the strategy was participatory and both institutions and the private sector assumed their role very diligently. This leads Spies to believe that there is a high potential for ensuring the continuity and scaling up of the project's actions once it closes.

-The ideal case would be to give it the status of public policy, because in that case the institutions with roles and responsibilities would be held accountable for its implementation.

However, it is not possible to overlook the fact that the pandemic will be one of the greatest difficulties for the translation of the strategy into concrete actions, at least in the short term. Budget cuts in response to the crisis and the limitations to carry out face-to-face training and on-site verification of the implementation of good practices will undoubtedly be major obstacles.

Expanding agricultural NAMAs

Spies reports that as a cooperation agency, GIZ has been approached by agencies and other actors from several countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Dominican Republic, Tunisia and Vietnam, interested in learning about the Coffee NSP experience.

They have also shared experiences with initiatives such as Bean Voyage (which has a model for the commercialization of coffee that favors smallholder agriculture with gender equity and the inclusion of youth), the Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT) and the Global Coffee Platform, a platform committed to sustainable coffee production.

….And non-agricultural NAMAs as well

In Costa Rica, GIZ has just completed the design of the Solid Waste NAMA with the Ministries of Environment and Health, the National Union of Local Governments (UNGL, for its acronym in Spanish), the Institute for Municipal Development and Advisory Services (IFAM) and the Costa Rican Union of Chambers and Associations of the Business Sector (UCCAEP). Spies does not hesitate to affirm that this project has been enriched by the experiences and lessons learned from the Coffee NSP.