Wakuli and future-proof coffee production

Wakuli fully commits to regenerative coffee production in all origins we work with. Because we feel responsible for making sure we will still have coffee for years to come. So… how do we make sure Wakuli coffee is future-proof coffee?

Climate change's effect on coffee production

You would need to live under a rock to not be aware of climate change and its effects that are dominating the news. The agricultural sector is a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions as well as to biodiversity loss. And coffee is quite high on the list. This is partly due to the transport, as well as roasting and packing. However, the biggest footprint is made at farm level and the moment of consumption.

The role of farmers in future-proof coffee production

Because Wakuli has a farmer-first approach in everything we do, we naturally focus our attention on farmers and the contribution they can make to combating climate change and ecological degradation. At the same time, it’s important to consider farmers are by far the most vulnerable actors in the value chain. So making sure they do not carry all the burden and are protected against the worst effects of climate change is equally important.


How prevalent is organic coffee production?

Most of the farmers we work with are organic by default. Most smallholder farmers have limited access to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This is a direct result of the poverty trap most small holders are in. However cynical it might sound, this is now a key part of their proposition for sustainably grown coffee: their coffee is by default organic. It does not mean they can lean back and enjoy any perks. Organic by default is seldomly rewarded by a market that is totally hooked on proof, audits, and certification. The problem is that farmers need to pay and invest time for certification, which requires money and time that most farmers don’t have.

At the other end of the spectrum, we find our partners in Brazil, a country notorious for intensive farming and monoculture coffee. It is there that we see a growing wish to shift towards a more regenerative way of growing (even though it is a sensitive development very much intertwined with political position: working on the environment, organic production or restoration of nature is associated with the left of the political divide). Any development related to regenerative production needs to be incentivized by an economical potential: a growing market demand for future-proof coffee.

Regenerative coffee

Wakuli embraces the concept of regenerative agriculture (“reg ag”) as a path towards a sustainable coffee future. That’s because this approach is farmer central and focuses on where we need to go together, not on what farmers need to comply with. It is about what works best on a specific farm and for a specific farmer, not on what big corporations demand as a part of their branding, labeling, or risk mitigation.

In its most narrow definition, regenerative farming means that the soil is step-by-step improved. That relates to things like microorganisms, mesofauna, organic matter, minerals, soil organic carbon and water retention (capacity).

It is important to consider how these improvements are made. Stepping away from chemical fertilizers and pesticides are major components of the “reg ag” approach. The concept of large scale monoculture farming needs to make way for more diverse, more thought intensive farming in sync instead of in competition with nature. 

Making the coffee farmer profession future-proof

Maybe just as important is the need to revitalize the profession of coffee farmer. It needs to be both financially and mentally fulfilling and rewarding to be a coffee farmer. And that's where our aim for partnership, quality, and a great price come together with sustainable coffee production. In truth, you can't separate the four. And we are keen on proving that in the years to come.

Where to start the process for becoming future-proof?

In order to become more regenerative, it is important to understand a farmer’s baseline. What do farmers already do that is in line with this concept, and where are improvements relevant? Which interventions will have a positive effect on both farmer well-being and environmental or climate related issues? For instance:

It might be a good idea (from an environmental angle) to work on wastewater treatment, however, farmers will experience greater advantage of soil improvement on their farm. So that could be a smarter (first) activity when working towards regenerative production. After proving that this way of working benefits both farmer and nature, it will be easier to take reg ag to the next level.

On top of this, it is important to distinguish between the needs and circumstances of different origins. Brazil, Honduras, Indonesia, Congo, and Rwanda are all completely different realities. Landscape, climate, weather patterns, politics, and culture are all parts of the mix that forms the starting point for developing regenerative practices. This means there is no one size fits all approach here. Nevertheless, we are determined to work towards 100% regenerative coffee from all our partners, and the climate crisis does not allow us to sit back and take our time. 

Wakuli and future-proof coffee production