We couldn’t be prouder to share that on International Coffee Day, Neumann Kaffee Gruppe (NKG), our parent company, introduced NKG BLOOM, a global sustainable-sourcing initiative with a goal of reaching 300,000 coffee-farming families by 2030 and empowering them to run their farms at full potential and meaningfully improve their livelihoods.
It’s a long-term initiative that will initially involve establishing Farmer Services Units (FSUs) at participating NKG export companies—teams that will work directly with producers to create tailored strategies for success—and ultimately, eventually, will result in fully traceable NKG BLOOM coffees.
The coffee is still a long way off, but the needs of farmers are immediate, and early efforts are already underway.
“NKG BLOOM is not a marketing strategy, it is not a philanthropic endeavor or a feel-good project. It’s about the way we want to do business in the long term. It will cost us a lot of money and effort, but it is simply the right thing to do,” said David M. Neumann, Neumann Gruppe’s Group CEO.
“Lending to smallholder farmers in some of the poorest places in the world is a risky proposition, but it’s critical to unlocking the potential that these farmers hold for global agriculture and development in their own countries and communities,” Mr. Neumann continued.
That lending comes thanks to a revolving $25 million Coffee Smallholder Livelihoods Facility—an innovative financial solution that was signed into existence by leading European banks ABN AMRO, Rabobank and BNP Paribbas and further backed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and IDH: the Sustainable Trade Initiative.
In short, the participants in the Facility share the financial risk and make possible this most essential aspect of NKG BLOOM.
“Ultimately, the Smallholder Livelihoods Facility enables us to bring the power of the global financial markets—long the missing piece—to smallholder coffee farmers,” says Catalina Eikenberg, who heads NKG Sustainable Business Unit in Hamburg. “We’ve set ourselves an ambitious goal, and we’re excited to make it happen.”
NKG BLOOM in Honduras
Coffee farming in Honduras has long been an act of endurance and determination, with producers struggling to create quality from minimal resources. Since 2002, Becamo has supported producers with various efforts, including the 2015 creation of Recuperando mi Cafetal, a program designed to support the recovery of 84 hectares of coffee destroyed during the rust epidemic.
Now part of NKG Bloom, the program offers producers training in plant nutrition; pest, disease and tissue management; and the preparation of biofertilizers. “It’s about recovering,” says Becamo leadership. “Recovering farmers financial economy, their family heritage and their interest in following the best agricultural practices.”
NKG Bloom further builds on these efforts and makes them a permanent part of Becamo’s business. The renovation program now also includes the availability of ECOPIL seedlings and plant varieties resistant to pests and diseases. The new technology, once piloted and approved, is expected to improve producers’ productivity, resilience and ultimately profitability.
Becamo is today growing the team of agronomists within its Farmer Services Unit, digitizing its support services to increase efficiency and transparency and expanding its offer of financial services to include both short- and long-term financing options for farmers and farmer groups.
More about NKG Bloom in Honduras: www.nkgbloom.coffee/honduras
NKG BLOOM in Kenya
During the harvest season in Kenya, more than 1,000 farmers may deliver coffee to a washing station. The process is traditionally error prone, involves long delays and suffers from a lack of communication. Deliveries are manually recorded, and it may take weeks for a cooperative to know the full result of a harvest.
NKG Bloom has moved the system online through a mobile app, desktop app and agronomy app. Cherry-weighing scales are now connected to the factory manager’s laptop; each time coffee is weighed, the transaction is logged in the system, a receipt is printed and a text message with the details of the transaction is sent to the farmer’s phone. Records are now clear, accurate and always up to date. During the first harvest that the system was online, more than 150,000 deliveries were digitized and shared to farmers’ phones.
Under NKG Bloom, Tropical Farm Management Kenya (TFMK) and farmer-owned cooperatives are increasing their investments in washing-station infrastructure and technical assistance for farmers. Extension officers work closely with co-op members to address low yields and climate- and disease-based agronomy challenges.
Building on prior efforts by TFMK, NKG Bloom is additionally working with cooperatives on certification trainings, the dispersal of fertilizer and other soil-nutrient inputs, and on working-capital loans for infrastructure investments and other needs.
More about NKG Bloom in Kenya: www.nkgbloom.coffee/kenya
NKG BLOOM in Mexico
When the coffee rust crisis hit Mexico in 2012, production across the country fell by 70 percent, severely affecting smallholder coffee farmers who contribute 90 percent of Mexico’s coffee production.
There were strong arguments for getting out of coffee: high investment costs, negative yields after pulling up old trees, lack of access to suitable and healthy
seedlings, and high demand for expertise and labor. Additionally, price and production fluctuations left farmers in high-risk and vulnerable situations.
It was in this environment that Exportadora de Café California (ECC) designed and implemented a program to secure the sustainable production of Mexican coffee and improve thousands of farmers’ livelihoods, enabling them to continue growing coffee for years to come. ECC’s vision was to reposition coffee production as the main driver of the social economy in coffee regions. Thriving farming communities are key to the long-term success of the company—and of the regions.
ECC’s Por Más Café program, now part of NKG Bloom, offers producers seedlings (ECC has grown more than 31 million plants in its nursery to date), technical and agricultural assistance, access to high-quality fertilizers and inputs, access to financing, and a guarantee of coffee purchasing in order to ensure a healthy future for coffee in Mexico.
The program has helped to renew nearly 5,000 hectares in Mexico, has worked with more than 4,500 producers and has helped turn around lives and businesses in Mexico.
More about NKG Bloom in Mexico: www.nkgbloom.coffee/mexico
NKG BLOOM in Uganda
Around the world, farming has become a high-tech enterprise. But in Uganda, it hasn’t changed much in centuries.
Four years in, NKG BLOOM has expanded its agricultural trainings to farmers, added advances for tarpaulins for coffee drying and is launching larger investment advances – longer-term loans for farmers to further invest in their coffee farms. It’s also helping to reactivate and strengthen village coffee organizations and offering farmer groups digitized receipts and working-capital loans that are also repaid with coffee.
Further disproving old stereotypes against lending to farmers, Ibero Uganda, NKG’s local exporter, has seen borrowing increase in September and April, when school fees are due, and repayment rates have exceeded 99 percent.
In the video below you can find the latest update from Uganda, showing the improvement, NKG BLOOM has brought so far.
More about NKG Bloom in Uganda: www.nkgbloom.coffee/uganda