Better methods = better crop
Better farming methods are at the center of the UTZ program, now part of the Rainforest Alliance. When farmers and cooperatives join the program, they learn how to make efficient use of land, water, fertilizer and manpower. This includes things like understanding the best way to apply fertilizer and learning how to implement new irrigation techniques. Farmers also learn the right way to plant, maintain and harvest crops. This entails everything from planting shade trees and using sticky traps to capture pests to learning better plucking and pruning methods for optimal growth. Beyond planting and harvesting, farmers develop record-keeping and management plans as well as techniques for managing risks such as persistent drought or excessive rainfall. With these new skills under their belt, farmers are better equipped to produce bigger yields and healthier, higher quality crops at lower costs. This in turn can lead to higher incomes as they can get more money for their harvests. “We learned that without pruning, you won’t have a good yield,” Enoch Mensah, an UTZ certified cocoa farmer in Ghana, explains. “After you’ve applied the fertilizer, every part of the plant is functioning properly. If it develops new shoots and you don’t remove them, they’re going to consume much of the nutrients that you’ve already invested into the plant.” On top of this, the UTZ program helps farmers get better market access by helping them form strong relationships between farmers and buyers and ensuring they receive a variable premium on top of the market price for their crop.
The Rainforest Alliance organization is constantly measuring the impact through studies carried out by independent researchers and third parties. By doing this, we can see the impact they are making in real numbers and through feedback from the farmers themselves. The UTZ coffee program in Colombia found that farmers’ greater adoption of good agricultural practices meant that, in spite of external factors affecting yields, their yields dropped by just 1% compared to a 52% drop by non-certified farmers. At the same time, by year four of the program the UTZ, now part of the Rainforest Alliance certified farmers’ net income per kilo was 65% higher than if they were not part of the program.