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#73 | Re:co Podcast – Carlos Brando and Veronica Herlina on Scaling Local Action for Global Sustainability Results (S5, Ep. 3)

#73 | Re:co Podcast – Carlos Brando and Veronica Herlina on Scaling Local Action for Global Sustainability Results (S5, Ep. 3)

This podcast is brought to you with the support of

Today, we’re very happy to present the third episode of the “The Role of Innovation and Technical Advancement,” a session recorded at Re:co Symposium this past April. This session explored and evaluated advances in innovation positioned to make an impact within our industry as we work to resolve the coffee price crisis. 

If you haven’t listened to the previous episodes in this series, we strongly recommend going back to listen before you continue with this episode. 

Global Coffee Platform members and Country Platform stakeholders have united in new ways to tackle the economic viability of coffee farming at scale. Innovative collaborations, including National Coffee Sustainability Curricula, the Country Platform Global Congress, and Global Coffee Platform Member Initiatives are bringing sustainability champions together in pre-competitive partnerships to amplify investments and achieve more resilient, productive, and profitable coffee farming communities. We all rely upon profitable coffee farming to support our thriving global industry. Here, Carlos Brando and Veronica Herlina share how Global Coffee Platform members are pioneering a neutral, pre-competitive organization where both private and public sustainability stakeholders actively create a common roadmap and actionable agendas to move our shared, critical sustainability strategies forward faster.

Special Thanks to Toddy 

This talk from Re:co Boston is supported by Toddy. For over 50 years, Toddy brand cold brew systems have delighted baristas, food critics, and regular folks alike. By extracting all the natural and delicious flavors of coffee and tea, Toddy Cold Brew Systems turn your favorite coffee beans and tea leaves into fresh cold brew concentrates, that are ready to serve and enjoy. Learn more about Toddy at http://www.toddycafe.com.

Related Links 
Table of Contents

0:00 Introduction
2:45 How the Global Coffee Platform supports small farmers who only earn 25% of the FOB export price
8:30 How the Global Coffee Platform helps countries create a language of sustainability to support major charitable investment projects in coffee-growing countries, identifying “low-hanging fruit” sustainability gaps
15:20 Testimonials from Uganda, Kenya, and Vietnam on how the Global Coffee Platform operates in their countries
20:45 Veronica Herlina on how the Global Coffee Platform operates in Indonesia and adapts to local conditions
40:45 Outro

Full Episode Transcript

0:00 Introduction

Peter Giuliano: Hello everybody, I’m Peter Giuliano, SCA’s Chief Research Officer. You’re listening to an episode of the Re:co Podcast, a series of the SCA Podcast. The Re:co podcast is dedicated to new thinking, discussion, and leadership in Specialty Coffee, featuring talks, discussions, and interviews from Re:co Symposium, the SCA’s premier event dedicated to amplifying the voices of those who are driving specialty coffee forward. Check out the show notes for links to our YouTube channel where you can find videos of these talks.

This episode of the Re:co Podcast is supported by Toddy. For over 50 years, Toddy brand cold brew systems have delighted baristas, food critics, and regular folks alike. By extracting all the natural and delicious flavors of coffee and tea, Toddy Cold Brew Systems turn your favorite coffee beans and tea leaves into fresh cold brew concentrates that are ready to serve and enjoy. Learn more about Toddy at toddycafe.com. Toddy: Cold brewed, simply better.

Re:co Symposium and the Specialty Coffee Expo are coming to Portland in April 2020. Don’t miss the forthcoming early-bird ticket release – find us on social media or sign up for our monthly newsletter to keep up-to-date with all our announcements.

Today, we’re very happy to present the third episode of the “The Role of Innovation and Technical Advancement,” a session recorded at Re:co Symposium this past April. This session explored and evaluated advances in innovation positioned to make an impact within our industry as we work to resolve the coffee price crisis.

If you haven’t listened to the previous episodes in this series, we strongly recommend going back to listen before you continue with this episode.

Global Coffee Platform members and Country Platform stakeholders have united in new ways to tackle the economic viability of coffee farming at scale. Innovative collaborations, including National Coffee Sustainability Curricula, the Country Platform Global Congress, and Global Coffee Platform Member Initiatives are bringing sustainability champions together in pre-competitive partnerships to amplify investments and achieve more resilient, productive and profitable coffee farming communities.

We all rely upon profitable coffee farming to support our thriving global industry. Here, Carlos Brando and Veronica Herlina share how Global Coffee Platform members are pioneering a neutral, pre-competitive organization where both private and public sustainability stakeholders actively create a common roadmap and actionable agendas to move our shared, critical sustainability strategies forward faster.

Also, to help you follow along in this podcast, I will chime in occasionally to help you visualize what you can’t see.

2:45 How the Global Coffee Platform supports small farmers who only earn 25% of the Free on Board (FOB) export price.

Carlos Brando: Thank you. Good morning coffee friends. I know this is a panel about technology and innovation and for technology and innovation to work in a producing country we need a minimum of infrastructure for it to be effectively used and this is what I’m going to talk about. I’m going to talk about the work of the Global Coffee Platform to implement or develop the infrastructure that exists, or implement if it doesn’t exist in producing countries, so that the projects that many of you developed in these countries can be more efficient, more effective, and bring more results.

The Global Coffee Platform is actually today active in nine countries in alphabetical order Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Peru, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam but this work can be extended to other countries and for this reason we have a memorandum of understanding with the International Coffee Organization. So, what I’m going to be telling you about here is not restricted and can be used in any country and what the platform believes is that we have to have local action for global results if we want to increase the viability of sustainable coffee with added value for growers and this of course in a time of low prices we’re living right now. We have to think of the economic viability of coffee farming together and I’m going to use a few stories to carry you through this infrastructure building.

In my first story is the large coffee grower in Country X that has an average productivity of 30 bags per hectare and it’s fully sustainable. However, he or she is surrounded by many small growers whose average productivity is five bags per hectare and they’re not sustainable at all, especially economically. Why does that happen? Because their country lacks a fully developed enabling environment. Maybe some of the environment is there. Sometimes none of the environment is there. Do you know that in some coffee-producing countries, the grower only gets 25% of the FOB export price? 50% and the average for the world is about 65% whereas countries that have this enabling environment, in these countries the producer gets 85% to 90%.

What is this enabling environment? It’s extension service is that’s training the growers. farmer organization that brings them together to defend their own interests. Financing for inputs, for equipment, for harvesting. Smart legislation that does not have taxes that take the money from the farmer to be invested elsewhere. Efficient markets for fertilizers for imports and an efficient supply chain and logistics. This is one of the things that the Global Coffee Platform brings about in the countries where it operates. In some countries, it’s trying to perfect it. In other countries, it has to start from scratch. But it’s this training, this organization, these logistics has to be brought about and the question you might think at the beginning, this is the government’s job, and we don’t care. It’s not as easy as that and I think there is… we believe that the platform, that there is a role for the private sector to play and how does it play it? With the creation of national sustainability platforms. What’s a national sustainability platform?

Who participates, who integrates, the platforms? Starting with growers, representatives, and their associations. Representatives of the trade, representatives of industry, retail and very, very important, government and civil society because they can be the main players. But the incentives have to be there for them to operate. So, when you bring this all together, you create a national sustainability platform and you may say, well, many countries already have platforms but sometimes the platforms are too busy with other things, like financing growers or this or that. and there is no time to look at sustainability itself. That’s why we add one more item here.

Peter Giuliano: Carlos has added the word “intangible” to his slide, alongside “tangible.”

Carlos Brando: and I know, and I say there is this intangible thing there, because these things are sometimes very difficult to justify that they have to be paid for because there are no clear KPI results so we have to make them do with collaboration from government, developing ownership and investment, too.

8:30 How the Global Coffee Platform helps countries create a language of sustainability to support major charitable investment projects in coffee-growing countries, identifying “low-hanging fruit” sustainability gaps

Carlos Brando: And this brings me to my second story. Many of you have projects in producing countries, and these projects can really profit from what we’re talking about. Let’s think of the US$5,000,000 project that is supposed is to help the 3000 growers in country Y. It lasts two years in the productivity which used to be five. Now it’s 22 and they were not sustainable before, but they are sustainable now. It so happens that after the KPIs, the key performance indicators are measured at the end of year two, and that time goes by you go there in year four in the productivity that had gone up to 22 bags per hectare has gone back seven and they’re no longer sustainable. What happened? It could not, the results could not be incorporated not even by those farmers themselves, let alone the rest of the country because the country did not develop a sustainability lingo. There was not a language. Sustainability was not incorporated. It didn’t have ownership by the extension services that exist, by the agronomist, by state itself. That’s why the Global Coffee Platform has been creating in these country’s what’s called National Sustainability Curricula that bring together extensionists, agronomists not only from government but from the trade, from roasting companies and includes the certification schemes like Rainforest Alliance for sea for trade, and together they create a national sustainability curricular that’s local to the country.

It has ownership also because you cannot expect a public’s extension service to use a foreign standard. This has to be a local lingo that will be the basis for the grower to go into certification afterwards. But this national sustainability curricula is something that the country can use because it was created within the country and this also allows you to measure sustainability. On the one hand, it allows you to use of the local resources that are there. You have the extension services, the agronomists. Start to talk a sustainability language that they did not talk before. So, you start using local resource is like the extension service in coffee in Brazil spends US$70,000,000 per year. We can use that money if we have the proper lingo, the sustainability curricula. But the sustainability curricula also allows us to measure sustainability. Brazil and Vietnam are using a cell phone app to do that, but you can do it by other means, and this allows one to identify sustainability gaps and if you identify the gaps, you know where you have to invest to have continued improvement and eventually to create sustainable regions. Because this whole idea of sustainability is changing from a world of certification to something that we’re maybe thinking not of the grower himself or herself anymore, but of the region and once you measure, you identify sustainability gaps, you can have pre-competitive, multi-stakeholder member initiatives that attack those gaps and this is the case, for example, of this member initiative on responsible use of Agrochemicals in Brazil.

Peter Giuliano: Carlos has a picture of eight men and women on stage, lifting their hands in celebration.

Carlos Brando: You see, in this picture from right to left three important roasters: Nestle, JD, and Keurig. You see traders: Olam and ECOM and very important, Syngenta is there, an agrochemical company. We have to bring them along to be responsible as well and the Federation of Brazilian Coffee exporters. They’re all working together in a member initiative. That is to address sustainability gaps collectively and everybody is sharing the bill. and this forces members/participants to recognize members co-responsibility. Everybody is responsible from seed to cup and this is not a one-shot deal. This will bring long term results because it’s incorporated by the National Sustainability Platform and uses the National Coffee Sustainability Curricula and also the money for this is coming very often not only from the participating companies but also from donors in the country itself, in abroad and this all together brings to my third story.

Sometimes we’re doing our producing countries projects that are not really the most important high hanging fruit because this is what the money coming from abroad is available for. Sometimes there are funds to do X but what the country mostly needs is why and what this system we’re talking about allows is to define the sustainability gaps locally and if you do that locally, you can then go after the donors in the country or outside the country and then you really focus on main priorities for each and every country, for each and every region.

Well, you might be asking this look so very nice and who pays the bill? Well, the bill of the platform is basically the backbone, the structure that makes it work is paid by member contributions. So, we’re always looking to grow membership and to engage more members because that’s the way we can expand our activities. Of course, the backbone is paid by members, the membership initiatives are paid by the ones who participate, and we count a lot on donor money for the projects, and this donor money can come from abroad or can come from the countries themselves.

15:20 Testimonials from Uganda, Kenya, and Vietnam on how the Global Coffee Platform operates in their countries

Carlos Brando: Well, having explained all this to you that seems very theoretical. We’re going to move now into what I call the more practical part and to close this I want to say to you how hard it is to finance what is intangible, and that’s the basics of it. Sometimes there is a lot of money for the tangible part that’s easy to measure, but the tangible part often does not work if you do not have the infrastructure that is intangible, and to show to you how this is working, I’m going to have two testimonials, one minute only. One from Dr. Emmanuel, which is the chair of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority and the Coffee Platform, and Dr. Kimemia, who is the chair of the Kenya coffee platform. In fact, Dr. Emmanuel is here if you want to stand Emmanuel but for the sake of time we’re going to use the testimony instead of have him to speak. Can I please have the Uganda testimony, Dr. Emmanuel’s?

Dr Emmanuel: We have come up with costings of investing in the productivities of coffee from traditional system to an improved system to a commercial system but also a recommended system. We should consider all the types of production systems in Uganda and both arabica and robusta in all parts of the country. These results are very good for the public and private sector because it is helping to guide the focus to investment. We have come up with templates which have all the costings for different systems, and it is helping more investors to come in coffee. As a government, we feel this is way of working with private sector but have in mind a commercial and business-oriented approach. And these templates are available both in Uganda and anyone who wants to approach them, everybody who wants to do coffee, we just have to show them the link and they can easily come up with such kind of investments.

Dr Joseph K. Kimemia: … platform recently reformed aims at particular farmers who grow their coffee and one way that we are focusing on was to have an agreed training curriculum. We call it the national coffee sustainability curriculum. It will ensure the farmers get the same message. Secondly, because agriculture is devolved, we’re focusing on training of trainers at the county level to ensure that these trainers will go out and train the farmers on GAP. Also, we are training the wet mill managers to ensure that whatever the farmers produce the good coffee then they can be processed well and finally the dialogue between all the stakeholders gives confidence, gives that peace, gives hope for the farmers and I think this is the most important ingredient in as far as coffees’ traceability is concerned, that harmony in the coffee production.

Carlos Brando: We’re now moving from two examples in Africa. Very brief to another example. We’re now moving to Southeast Asia, and I’m going to show a one-minute testimonial from Vietnam. And after that we’re going to devote to the second lot to a presentation of how the platform works with the curriculum, etc., in Vietnam. Can I have the third video?

Nguyen Do Anh Tuan: One of the very important [inaudible] is the diploma at the national sustainable coffee curriculum. And that when we develop it, we try to apply it, we measure the result and with the pilot with 8000 growers in the next step, we will have a lot for the government to prioritize the investment resources like we have the program with going back for the loan to support our farmer who applies sustainable practice. And there is also the opportunity that we can introduce our farmer to the buyer to see how sustainable our coffee is. And very importantly the next step we will upscale in our supply of measurement for all the five provinces and coffee out of Vietnam. And another important step that we work together with the government to develop the law of crop production. And very important article there is the application of geographical indication for the crop.

20:45 Veronica Herlina on how the Global Coffee Platform operates in Indonesia and adapts to local conditions

Carlos Brando: I now would like to call Veronica to present to you the work of SCOPI, which is the Sustainable Coffee Platform of Indonesia Stop. There you go.

Veronica Herlina: Thank you, Carlos. Good afternoon, America. Because in Indonesia is about 11 hours ahead of here. So, first I want to ask how many of you have ever been to Indonesia? Wow, that’s a lot. Wow, I’m surprised. But let’s go for the journey. Indonesia is very large and diverse. I don’t know which part of you that visit our provinces, our location of coffee, Indonesia. But I don’t know if maybe you also know that Indonesia has about 17,500 islands. We have also 1300 races and tribes and we have 2500 languages. So, you can imagine when we have to enter the location that’s why we have to understand the culture, the local languages to understand more. I’ve been to about 13 provinces out of 15 provinces of the major coffee production in Indonesia. I know of you, maybe Sumatra. Right. But have you ever been to Aceh, Jambi, to Papua as well? So, that is what’s part of the location. The challenge is it’s the location is quite a distance. The languages and infrastructure and even the phone signal.

So, this is sometimes we have to stop our work of assisting people when I have to go to the location. We are very lucky to have support from stakeholders such as The Global Coffee Platform, Rainforest Alliance, Ford Foundation, Recoto, New Zealand Embassy, and a lot more others. But of course, big support from our members and the governments of Indonesia. After 325 years of cultivating coffee the stakeholders gathered and launched this national curriculum, an easy way we call it NSC. This is like the Bible for the master trainers to train the farmers. Same language from Aceh to Papua so that they have no difficulties to translate each into their language. But of course, we still need a translator from the local translator to translate because sometimes they don’t understand about what it is because right now we only made this book in Indonesian language as the national language. I’m sorry, maybe if you don’t speak Indonesia, maybe you don’t really understand what this is in inside it. This national curriculum, it’s also the last is only the first step, but the next big step that we have to do is actually the rolling out for these to the farmers to monitor them and to make sure of the impact for this.

Now, this is the national curriculum, that actually we’re rolling out to the Master Trainers and this is actually the Master Trainer National Meeting that we host every year. They are 190 from all of our 15 provinces with different background, different languages. But here they speak about national curriculum, the language that everyone knows about. The next part is they have to talk about what is the plan? What is that program? What is the follow up after they have written to the region because this is that we really want to see about the farmers getting the rollout from them. This is more challenging that we also have to build the development for monitoring evaluation system. Besides the serious programs, serious talk in the classes, we also provide them on the order activities like funny things like dancing, like they can show off about what they have from the region with a different style of dancing or something like that. So, not only this but we also give them a chance. We give them reward, give them an award for the people, the marshal trainers that actually achieved what they did in the field that we can value them. So, we have some kind of category like the best performance of NC, the best or the most farmers trained and the best trained on the best of administration, reporting and etc. Less than two months ago, we have the pilot monitoring project in two location. One in one in Robusta and the other one is in Arabica and the result is the farmers are really, really happy to get intensively trained by the master trainers and this is a positive thing to make them practice. The result from the training to practice into their field. We don’t want to lose them. We need them. We need the master trainers to intensively roll out the training to the farmers. We don’t want them to stop doing this noble work. As you may know, we have Arabica and Robusta traded globally and produce most in the world. but aside from depth, Indonesia actually has coffee grow in peatlands, type of Liberica and Excelsa. This is something different. Right now, we don’t really have the national curriculum for these locations for Liberica and Excelsa so maybe on the next part we will develop on this national curriculum as well.

Peter Giuliano: Veronica has a photo of coffee trees growing in a flat, tropical landscape. It’s captioned “Coffee on the peatlands?”

Veronica Herlina: Peatlands. and right now, we have a lot of activities that actually we also bring up to plant the coffee in the peatlands. This also helps on the climate’s mitigation.

Peter Giuliano: Veronica is showing a photo of herself sat down amongst indigenous Indonesians wearing colorful headwear.

Veronica Herlina: This is me in the middle of the men behind the coffee trees that maybe you also enjoy the coffee right mount or in your home. After we have a lot of work, work hard on the training, on the sunburn, on arguing and everything we can celebrate right now with the peace. Yeah, so that’s one experience that’s really, really unforgettable. I used to work among men, but I really love work within the middle of these women farmers…

Peter Giuliano: Veronica has a photo of herself in the middle of mostly elderly female coffee producers in a mountainous coffee field.

Veronica Herlina: especially with their age. They have really, really high energy and are inspirational. Gender and also age, the youth have also become one of the challenges in Indonesia because a lot of farmers are quite senior, I don’t want to say old. Yeah, so this is also not determined for us. But we try, we keep developing to make more real activities, to make the gender and youth happen in Indonesia program as well. We don’t want to have the kids of the farmers that don’t really want to take care of the coffee trees, the coffee land from their family anymore. Most of the farmers, they don’t know what to do with the farm so sometimes we have to teach them how to take care of your land. how to take care of the farms. We teach them how to make para-para. We call it para-para but like the drying system for their coffee.

Peter Giuliano: Veronica is showing a photo captioned ‘Let’s make a simple solar dryer’ and shows a group of men constructing a dryer out of bamboo.

Veronica Herlina: But this is conventional. We try to make this efficient and effective so that don’t really make a reason ‘I cannot do this and cannot do that because I have to buy this, I have to buy that, provide this and provide that’. So sometimes we use what they have in the from like the wood, bamboo. So, we teach them how to make the things with what they have on their farm. Use it and a lot of farmers also don’t know how and why they have to pick red cherries, so we teach them about just pick the red cherries. A lot of reasons why they have to pick all the cherries from the trees they have. First, sometimes I don’t have people to do that, to pick one by one looking for the red and that is an easier way for us, very fast to do that rather than have to pick one by one the red cherries and sometimes the price is not worth it and we have to also translate about the green grading to the farmers what it is because sometimes they don’t understand about what is green grading. What is the damage bean? They don’t really understand so we have to translate that these kinds of beans are rejected so you can separate them. Yeah, bulletproof. I’ve been there.

Peter Giuliano: Veronica has a photo of herself walking in a line through a field and everybody is wearing bulletproof helmets and vests.

Veronica Herlina: So, sometimes the coffee you drink, the coffee you’re enjoying is not easy to get. I have to face one time that I have to use bulletproof vest and also use the bulletproof cars to go to the location and this is more challenging for us. The government role is very important for us to rolling out this. So, through MOU we can have an agreement with the governments to do planning on the program. What next? What is to achieve the target and so on? So, this we have to understand each other as well to do also collaboration.

Peter Giuliano: Veronica is showing a picture of a meeting in a large conference room. The words “collaboration is the way” is written on top and “local action for global results” is written below.

Veronica Herlina: There is a saying you cannot sweep using one stick but when you put together it will become a broom. So, the stakeholders realize that you cannot work by yourself, so you have to work together. Collaboration to make the bigger import, bigger impact, and bigger receiver. Who is that? I remember our supporter, the governments and maybe next will be you/. To ensure that we have are on the same page. We have the theory of change, so we know which part we have to do, which what we have to deliver. What is the target, when we have to achieve and so on. This is not easy to have only one theory of change because we have together with all the stakeholders that maybe they have different interests and I have a lot of experience when I go to the field, meet the farmers, give them training. They ask me if there any market for my coffee? But when I go to meet the roaster, meet the traders they will also ask me and say like it’s really hard to get supply for coffee. So, I’m thinking about there is a gap for them. So, we develop one event. We call it, Pasar Kopi or Coffee Market. We call it Pasar Kopi by SCOPI. So, we have, every year to do this Pasar Kopi past our coffee on the buyers really, really like this idea. Really likes the idea because they can meet the farmers directly. They know new variety. They know about the story behind the coffee that they want to buy. So, this is really, really excitement even in Indonesia as well. We did it two times last year in Jakarta Coffee Week and also in the Trade Expo in Indonesia. So, I think this is a buyer and seller meet and the coffee is sold.

Thank you.

Carlos Brando: To conclude, if perhaps you felt after my presentation that this is so much theory, do we need that. You saw in a concrete way how difficult it is to do things in producing countries and the platform is really trying to pave the way not only for what the platform does, but what other people are trying to do in terms of facilitating what can be done. My last word here is really when you try to go into a producing country with the project, be aware of the difficulties to implement and since you’re spending your money in that you want whatever you do to have durable results beyond your time. It doesn’t help to build a school If the government is not ready to supply the teachers or to build a clinic if they’re no doctors and nurses to run it. Sometimes we think we can live without government, without infrastructure, without institutions in producing countries.

Well, I’ll just leave you a final message here. If you look at the countries that are more successful in the coffee business, it’s because they have moreover this enabling environment and the structures in place. and if we want to develop the other countries because we want diversity in the coffee supply, we really have to pay attention to national platforms. This Bible as she said, this lingo, as I say, the coffee sustainability curriculum and the enabling environment. This is the challenge for you.

Thank you very much.

40:45 Outro

Peter Giuliano: That was Carlos Brando and Veronica Herlina at Re:co Symposium this past April.

Remember to check out our show notes to find a link to the YouTube video of this talk, a full episode transcript, and a link to speaker bios on the Re:co website.

Re:co Symposium and the Specialty Coffee Expo are coming to Portland in April 2020. Don’t miss the forthcoming early-bird ticket release – find us on social media or sign up for our monthly newsletter to keep up-to-date with all our announcements.

This has been an episode of the Re:co Podcast, brought to you by the members of the Specialty Coffee Association, and supported by Toddy.

Subscribe to the #SCAPodcast on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Castbox, Overcast, Pocket Casts, PodBean, RadioPublic, or Stitcher.

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