Thiet Nguyen has worked with farmers in the fields of Vietnam for almost 25 years. For the last eleven years, he has been UTZ’s field representative, and for the last three also representing UTZ in the Coffee Climate Care (C3) project. The C3 project has enabled local farmers to identify the effects of climate change, learn the adaptation methods needed to tackle these, and find the partners to work together with and implement the necessary changes, so they are able to continue growing enough coffee to serve market needs and maintain their livelihoods.
Through direct experience talking with and educating the farmers, and years in the field, Mr. Nguyen has developed his own manner of communicating the importance and impact of climate change on the coffee farms.
C3 is the flavor and spice of sustainability
According to Mr. Nguyen, the farmers were at first sceptical of how grave the impact of climate change could be and its direct effects on their family’s livelihood.
This is where the C3 project comes in.
“The UTZ Code of Conduct is clear on social, economic and environmental factors, but now, with the threat of climate change, I realize it lacks something. Like when you cook without pepper and chili. Certification is like the beef and the C3 project is the pepper and chili on it. Before certification and the C3 project farmers already had a good business, but they didn’t care about IPM [integrated pest management], water saving etc. Now they realize that they cannot do it without these measures anymore. The soil and the temperatures are not what they used to be. The C3 project shows them if they don’t change, their business dies.”
The right method for farming right now
Mr. Nguyen showed the farmers clear proof that poor farming practices have a negative impact. He gives an example of demonstrating what happens without compost. Without compost the roots of pepper plants [used to generate shade] are very weak, and cannot grow through hard soil.
“In the Farmer Field School someone asked about pepper and why it doesn’t grow well with coffee. But you know, pepper on an old plantation with only chemical inputs and no manure, will die after 3 years. So I brought him to the plantation and showed him the roots – they were like hair, very weak! Without compost it is just not successful to grow pepper. I am proud of the result that when farmers joined the C3 project, they realized they have to change, they cannot cultivate like 30 years ago.”
Mr. Nguyen explains how a participatory approach was applied to training sessions allowing opportunities for discussion and promoting the principle of ‘learning by doing’. That way, the farmers see and understand the reality of their situation in practice and are better able to implement what they learn.
With the right thinking, farmers can do anything
When asked what he considered the big success of the project, Mr. Nguyen’s response couldn’t be clearer. He’s very proud of the farmers’ accomplishments and the overall impact of the C3 program, ensuring generations of farmers can continue with their family business.
It changed the thinking of the farmers. We did not only develop adaptation options and set up demonstration plots, but really changed the thinking of the farmers. If the thinking of farmers is right, they can do anything! This is therefore the most important thing.
Now UTZ is now reaching the end of the pilot phase and the stories of successes and challenges are emerging from the fields. If you are interested in learning more about the C3 project, including personal stories, read this story. Or use these testimonials in your communication to highlight the importance of farmers adapting to climate change; it’s in everyone’s best interests, from the farmers, to the companies that source coffee and ultimately the end consumer who enjoys it!