Smallholder coffee farmers and their communities around the globe are enjoying the benefits of innovative cutting-edge technology and streamlined communication tools. Helping lead this drive to deliver technology is the Rainforest Alliance’s President, Nigel Sizer. Highlighting the Rainforest Alliance’s success in this area and Nigel’s plans to increase the use of technology in the field, Per Bogstad, Senior Manager of Markets Transformation, recently addressed ‘Innovations in Certification’ at the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe’s (SCAE) Coffee Sustainability Forum in Dublin, Ireland.
The Rainforest Alliance has been advocating for sustainable agriculture for almost 30 years, and awarded the first Rainforest Alliance coffee certificate to a farm in Guatemala in 1995. To continue to be authentic and impart lasting impacts, new and transformative improvements must be continually developed and implemented. And to remain relevant amidst the sea of “eco-labels” with various levels of credibility, the value of the Rainforest Alliance must be clear to producers and to the agriculture sector generally – and to consumers, who must know their support makes a difference.
Coffee is one of the world’s most traded commodities, and over five percent of the world’s coffee is grown on Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms. Last year 550,000 metric tons were produced on a total 740,000 hectares of land managed under the standard for Rainforest Alliance certification set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). This is something to be proud of, but as an organization, we will not rest on our laurels. Standards must continually evolve in order to meet the ever-changing challenges faced by producers and the entire value chain, as well as new developments in science.
We believe that technology is vital in implementing agricultural standards and improving farmers’ livelihoods. Creative tech solutions can help to ensure that certification is leading farmers to reap tangible results from sustainable farming practices. This is aided by the fact that technology has become more available to farmers – many own smartphones, so satellite data is accessible and connectivity is easier than ever.
Looking ahead, we plan to empower farmers with a cost-effective mobile app that we have successfully piloted among coffee growers in Guatemala. Building upon the success of this program, we will launch similar new endeavors to lend additional support to more farmers. This will link farmers to discussion forums, allowing them to share knowledge and information with their peers and the Rainforest Alliance team, as well as provide access to training materials, including videos and graphical guides. All the content will be customisable based upon language and crops.
Another benefit of technology is to enable the more effective collection of data on the impacts of certification and the wider work of the Rainforest Alliance in the field. We have already started to see benefits, helping show the impact we are making and demonstrating value to farmers and the coffee industry more broadly. By using mobiles and tablets, we enable producers to collect impact data electronically, direct from the farm. This provides a much wider set and scale of data to analyze, collect, and utilise, providing more accurate, real-time information on impacts for coffee and beyond.
For more information about the Rainforest Alliance’s plans to marry technology and agriculture, please view: https://news.mongabay.com/2016/03/new-rainforest-alliance-head-technology-could-improve-commodity-certification