By Clément Chenost, co-founder and technical director of the Moringa fund.
Over the past 5 years, coffee production in Brazil and Central America has been severely affected by droughts and the leaf rust disease. In Nicaragua, a drop of nearly 40% was observed in coffee production in 2012-13, leading to serious social and economic impacts and the abandonment of some coffee farms. The impacts of climate change and coffee leaf rust are recent illustrations that highlight the need to build resilient coffee production models. Agroforestry offers solutions to stabilize coffee production during periods of drought, increase coffee quality and productivity and raise the living standard of small coffee producers.
In order to foster a sustainable, resilient and inclusive development and promote agroforestry systems, the Moringa Fund, an impact investment fund focused on agroforestry, has partnered with Nicafrance, a major stakeholder in the development of the coffee market in Nicaragua over the last 35 years. Together, they have launched the Nicafrance Outgrowers project, an ambitious farm renovation program based on the success of “La Cumplida”, the agroforestry farm managed by Nicafrance.
La Cumplida covers over 1,000 hectares, of which 660 hectares is high-quality shade-grown coffee plantations and 115 hectares is forest. This is a unique example of an agroforestry system combining coffee plantations with ten high-value native tree species. The company has already implemented and benefited from an extensive research program to develop highly productive disease-resistant coffee varieties (including resistance to the rust disease), well adapted to shade and with superior flavor.
To ensure that the wider region of Matagalpa also benefits from this model, the Nicafrance Outgrowers project will renovate 1,700 hectares of under-performing coffee farms belonging to small & medium scale producers. Selected farm owners receive the technical and financial capacity to rehabilitate their coffee production. Nicafrance Outgrowers provides support on state-of-the-art techniques and proven agroforestry methods as well as all the necessary supporting infrastructure. Farmers will obtain better coffee prices and will diversify their risk through the production of high quality timber (mainly mahogany and cedar), thereby reducing their vulnerability to market price volatility.
This win-win approach will build a coffee cluster producing around 5,000 tonnes of specialty coffee per year for high-end roasters in Europe, the US and Asia.
It is estimated that the project will store more than 500’000 tons of CO2. It will also provide higher incomes to growers and reduce poverty, while helping to create up to 6,000 permanent and seasonal jobs. It will also help smallholders to achieve Rainforest Alliance, FSC and UTZ certification.
In partnership with the Nicaraguan government, Nicafrance Outgrowers is also participating in the 2.7 million hectare Nicaraguan contribution to the 20 x 20 Initiative supported by the World Resource Institute (WRI), whose objective is to restore 20 million hectares of forests in Latin America.
All of these initiatives benefit from the inputs of high-level technical partners: ECOM and SNV, who have a long-term worldwide experience in creating agricultural producer clusters in order to enhance their production standards and reach higher-end markets; the French tropical agronomy research institute CIRAD, which developed the coffee varieties to be used in the project with better resistance to pests and droughts, higher productivity and better quality; and the French tropical forestry consulting business ONF International.
La Cumplida and its associated projects are therefore illustrating that innovative and financially sustainable business models based on agroforestry can offer pragmatic solutions to tackle climate change, enhance the living conditions of local coffee producers, promote coffee production systems with positive landscape and environmental impacts and create thousands of permanent jobs in regions of high poverty: a project with potential for replication across the region.
About the author:
Clément Chenost is co-founder and the technical director of the Moringa fund. Moringa is a pioneer impact fund dedicated to profitable agroforestry projects with high environmental and social impacts located in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. Moringa was initiated by the Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and ONF International and is backed by notable public and private sector investors.
Clément studied Biology at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. He has a Masters Degree in Ecology and Biology, an Executive Masters in Environmental Management and is a Rural Engineering, Water Management & Forest Engineer from Agro ParisTech. He previously serves as head of business development at ONFI and was a consultant at Ernst & Young.