"Our work with a coffee grower in a given area is not based on absolutes... we even must consider the sociological part of that person on the farm."
The Coffee NAMA is not a finished project: it is a dynamic process of continuous improvement
Jimmy Ruiz is a MAG agronomist and has been part of the technical committee of the Coffee NAMA. From an agronomic point of view, he explains, the Coffee NSP supported the process towards more sustainable coffee growing based on practices that seek balance in the farm. Among others, these practices refer to the implementation of agroforestry systems, pruning, proper dosage of fertilizers, soil conservation works to prevent erosion and improve microorganism populations. In short, it is a matter of improving conventional cultural practices in certain important details.
-Although in principle we engineers tend to be very structured, the truth is that in agronomy we work with living beings and that makes us, as engineers, to be more open to the ever-changing dynamics of living beings. Our work with a coffee grower in a given area is not based on absolutes... we even must consider the sociological part of that person on the farm.
Ruiz believes that this dynamic nature of the agronomic sciences contributed to the positive reception of the good practices promoted under the NAMA strategy among the technical extension personnel of both ICAFE and MAG.
Still in relation to his profession, Ruiz mentions that there is a growing awareness that it is not possible to continue with agriculture that consumes environmental resources in an unsustainable manner. Agricultural NAMAs offer an alternative to be able to continue producing while considering environmental variables. Ruiz does believe that among coffee growers there is a conviction to make the transition to a more environmentally friendly coffee farming. And the most interesting thing is that the practices promoted by the Coffee NAMA have positive effects, not only on these environmental variables, but also on profitability.
Where is the Coffee NAMA at the end of the Coffee NSP?
Ruiz is clear that the Coffee NAMA is not a finished project, but a process of continuous improvement for coffee growing. With this vision of process, at the end of the Coffee NSP, the Coffee NAMA initiative enters a third stage for which the country is seeking cooperation funds, this time with the advantage of not only being supported by national policies for the decarbonization of the economy, but also with the results achieved in the Coffee NSP as a letter of presentation.
For Ruiz it is important to highlight that the aspiration to scale the achievements of the project is part of a coherent long, medium, and short-term vision: from now on, there is a logical line that starts with the National Coffee Policy and goes through the National Low Emission and Climate Change Resilient Coffee Strategy -formulated with the support of the Coffee NSP- based on which the Coffee NAMA action plans will be oriented for the next four years.
These are not just abstract instruments. Ruiz lists some tangible actions into which these will be translated: a technical cooperation for 20 months with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the extension of the Coffee NAMA to more producers -based on the Coffee NSP-; a project called RECSOIL for the recarbonization of the coffee soil with an incentive for coffee growers and whose foundation is also based on the practices promoted by the Coffee NSP; a project derived from the Coffee NSP that will allocate part of the remaining funds to support the transition towards more efficient technologies in the coffee mills and to continue with the incentive for tree planting and adequate management of the farms; and finally, the search for international support for the continuity of the initiative in the medium and long term.
Advancing beyond coffee
The process of expanding the Coffee NAMA based on the results achieved so far has generated interest in agricultural subsectors such as sugar cane, rice and Musaceae, which are currently in the early stages of developing their own NAMAs. A first approach has already been made with sugarcane and the results of the Coffee NAMA have already been presented to enrich the process.
Ruiz believes that in the generation of other agricultural NAMAs it is crucial that the institutions know how to take advantage of the country's credentials in environmental matters, and on the other, the existence of agricultural sectors that are environmentally educated and aware and with socio-cultural conditions favorable to change. Both factors, together with the results of the Coffee NSP, create an extremely favorable scenario for accessing cooperation funds and promoting these processes.
Developing an identity among consumers
Definitely, a lot of work must be done not only in the component of substantive actions for the sector to improve in terms of its environmental footprint, but also in the promotion for the placement in the markets of these products with a differentiating seal. The Coffee NSP did work on this aspect for some international markets, but it was evident that it should be done with greater force.
Ruiz is convinced that there is potential to promote this differentiating aspect within the domestic market but clarifies that such an initiative should be coordinated with a consumer education axis and work on why it is important to buy products with this added value and why it is worth paying a little more for it.
To achieve this, we will also have to appeal to a question of identity in terms of what each person can contribute to their society - and ultimately to the planet - through something as common as their consumption choices.