News » 22% of Costa Rica´s coffee production is low-carbon and sustainable


Coffee is one of Costa Rica’s most important and emblematic export good and deeply connected to the country’s national identity. However, climate change clearly challenges the livelihood of Costa Rican coffee farmers and the crop’s long-term sustainability. 

Faced with this dire situation, in 2014 the sector joined forces with public institutions and the international cooperation to implement the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) Café. The Costa Rican NAMA Café is implemented by the country’s Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) and National Coffee Institute (ICAFE) and aims to reduce GHG emissions during coffee production and processing as well as adapt to the impact of climate change until 2024. Five years later, 22 per cent of Costa Rican coffee is produced in a sustainable manner and emitting the least possible amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“When we started with this initiative, many coffee producers had no idea of the impact their crop had on climate change and vice versa – and even less of what to do about it. The activities we have carried out within the NAMA Café have led to almost a fifth of the national production now being low-carbon, sustainable and better adapted to climate change. In the upcoming five years we hope to include the rest of the sector by way of our extension personnel and technical advisers, as well as those producers and coffee mills which have participated in the initiative so far”, expressed Renato Alvarado, minister of Agriculture. 

Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Minister of Environment and Energy, emphasized Costa Rica's position as a global role model in fighting climate change: “The coffee sector has shown great leadership at a national and international level in promoting and establishing low-carbon production. The lessons learned and experiences of implementing the NAMA Café will be invaluable for replicating this initiative in other crops and sectors, and will be highly helpful for other coffee-producing countries in the world motivated to follow our example”, stated Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, minister of Environment.

The NAMA Café focused particularly on offering capacity building measures for farmers and coffee mill personnel; training over 8.900 farmers in applying good agricultural practices on their farms and accompanying 62 coffee mills in measuring their annual GHG inventories, as well as mobilizing over US$3.8 million in private funds for acquiring necessary equipment and technologies.  

In order to successfully position the worldwide first low-carbon coffee on international markets and exploit its added value, the project trained 21 commercial managers in marketing and sales skills; 15 have managed to position their coffee on German and U.S. markets.  

“The added value of this low-carbon coffee opens new doors for our coffee producers on a global level, allowing them to enter negotiations with potential buyers interested specifically in a sustainable, high-quality coffee. At ICAFE we have included the NAMA Café as one of eight pillars of our Traceability and Sustainability Statement which aims to inform buyers and consumers in a transparent manner on every detail of the production and processing of Costa Rican coffee”, expressed Xinia Chaves, ICAFE´s executive director.

The NAMA Café received technical and financial support from 2015 to 2019 on behalf of the NAMA Support Project Low Carbon Coffee Costa Rica, implemented by the German Development Cooperation GIZ on behalf of the NAMA Facility, a joint initiative of the German and British governments. The NSP Café primarily offered technical support in capacity building among producers, mill personnel and extension workers, the development and launch of financing mechanisms and the institutionalization of these processes within the sector. "On behalf of GIZ we are very pleased to have been able to support Costa Rica's coffee producers in starting this transformational change towards a sustainable, low-carbon crop. We are satisfied that among the four institutions we have managed to set the basis for fulfilling the NAMA Café's goals until 2024", stated Sandra Spies, director of the NAMA Support Project on behalf of GIZ. 

GIZ will mostly retire from the initiative in December 2019, offering support only to the credit line with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration during 2020. 

Results of the NAMA Café de Costa Rica:

Over 8.900 producers on 25.000 hectares (22% of national production) were trained in the application of good agricultural practices in order to adapt to changing climate conditions, minimize the impact of illnesses and pests, and maintain their crop’s productivity.

By means of a project promoting agroforestry systems in coffee plantations with the Fundación Banco Ambiental (FUNBAM), over 75.000 shade trees were planted in over 80 coffee plantations, contributing to the capture of carbon dioxide, adaptation to climate change and protection of biodiversity. 

62 Costa Rican coffee mills (24% of those officially registered) were accompanied in the annual measurement of their GHG inventories by way of capacity building and technical assistance. After prioritizing future intervention areas, these mills carried out technological changes and optimized their processes in order to reduce GHG emissions, water and energy consumption. 

To facilitate necessary investments and acquisition of equipment, a credit line of US$8 million was launched in cooperation with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) and will remain available to the entire sector during 2020. 

Overall, the project managed to reduce over 38.000 tons CO2e in coffee production and processing.