To combat the rising temperatures and extreme weather patterns producers in Vietnam are facing due to climate change, UTZ has been running a 3 year project to help producers recognize and identify the risks they face and introduce measures that will enable them to adapt.
The project, Coffee Climate Care – C3, helps the producers recognize their vulnerabilities to climate change and implement measures to cope with them. Henriette Walz, UTZ’ Climate Change & Environmental expert is at the moment in Vietnam visiting the farmers participating in the C3 project and assessing its status and effects.
Henriette explains: “Most striking for me so far is a shift in mindset of the farmers concerning good agricultural practices. Through learning in-depth about climate change and at the same time feeling the impact it has on their farms, a lot of them now want to implement agricultural practices that might have been recommended before, but were not implemented because of a focus on short term profits. In a way, climate change makes sustainable practices a necessity.”
Most striking for me so far is a shift in mindset of the farmers concerning good agricultural practices. In a way, climate change makes sustainable practices a necessity.
In the upcoming weeks Henriette will be sharing her experience in Vietnam. Today, she interviews Pham Van Hoan, a 62 year old farmer, father of two, owner of a 0.9 ha Arabica coffee farm in the region of Lam Dong.
HW: How do you see climate change happening on your farm?
I know about climate change from the training in the C3 program. The weather used to be foreseeable, but it is not anymore. For example, in the rainy season, there used to be sun in the morning and it rained in the afternoon. Now it is not so regular. This is a big problem for the growth of coffee plants and a big problem for coffee production in the whole area. Through C3 we now know where it comes from and what we can do to prepare the coffee plantations and try to minimize where we cause climate change ourselves.
HW: What is the danger for your coffee crops?
That the flowers don’t develop into fruits but dry out. Also, before we did not need irrigation, now we do. Last, but not least, there are new pests. I have been growing Arabica coffee since 1999 and we never had any mosquito bugs affecting the plants. Now we do have them.
HW: What is the most important thing you have learned in the C3 project that will help you to deal with the effects of climate change?
I have learned which measures I can take to deal better with the challenges we face. Those are for example cover crops; I plant cover crops at the side of the plot and leave the grass on the field to protect against erosion. In the past I used to clear the plot, now I only cut the weeds before fertilization. This brings nutrition to the plants and lowers the temperature of the soil.
I am also planting shade trees. They are really important for Arabica trees. They get stronger and develop less secondary branches. My neighbors have seen this and now want to do the same, so have opened a nursery for pepper seedlings to supply them.
Also, I have changed the fertilization management. I had to hire additional labor for this, as I now apply the fertilizer much more targeted in trenches and I balance the NKP content (note: NKP stands for nitrogen, potassium and phosphate, the three most common components of fertilizers) so that it is adequate for my coffee trees.
HW: What has changed for you since your farm has been UTZ certified?
When I started working with UTZ, I got training on Good Agricultural Practices. Since then I haven’t sprayed any pesticides, for 3 years no herbicides, only fungicides.
HW: How do you see the future of coffee farming in this region?
Maybe the area of coffee production will be smaller in the future, or the productivity lower. This year has already been very tough, very dry. When Catimor (note: Catimor is the type of Arabica coffee he plants) flowers, they need a lot of water. In addition, prices are very low at the moment (6000VND-30Euro Cents per kg fresh cherry), so we will see how this develops.
The biggest challenge of climate change in the Vietnamese Lam Dong region might be the lack of water in the dry season, while at the same time a higher need for irrigation due to higher temperatures. Only a combination of many actions will prepare farmers against this including some work on community and maybe governmental level. Nonetheless farmers are incredibly motivated to implement measure to make the farms more suitable against climate change impacts and decrease their own footprint after noticing the impacts and learning about it through the C3 trainings.
In the following days, Henriette will be moving north to visit the farms in the region of Dak Lak, don’t miss her stories.
“How farmers adapt best to climate change depends on the region and the situation of the plantations: I am now traveling from our pilot group in the Lam Dong Area, where it is crucial for farmers to plant more shade trees, to the lower Dak Lak area where plantations are already shaded, as temperatures have already been higher in the past. Curious to see which measures are prioritized there!”
The Coffee Climate Care project is sponsored by the Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) with public funds of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Motivation: Climate change is already affecting agriculture in many regions of the world. At the same time food production accounts for a large part of greenhouse gas emissions. By assisting consumers in supporting sustainable production methods, UTZ can reduce the impact of agriculture on the climate and increase the resilience of farmers to the effects of climate change.