From the Field Stakeholder Workshop Insights: Driving sustainability in the coffee value chain through traceability systems

Stakeholder Workshop Insights Driving sustainability in the coffee value chain through traceability systems

The Alliance of Bioversity International & CIAT held a workshop on March 19, 2024, at the Clarion Hotel in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to discuss traceability systems' interoperability and the EUDR compliance, gathering 33 key coffee sector stakeholders.

On March 19, 2024, at the Clarion Hotel in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT hosted a workshop on the interoperability of traceability systems and their importance in complying with the European Union Regulation on Deforestation-Fee Products (EUDR). This workshop, titled 'Common Interests and Joint Solutions for EUDR Compliance: A Roadmap Towards Interoperability of Traceability Systems', gathered 33 stakeholders from various institutions involved in the coffee sector and agricultural supply chain in Honduras. 

The attendees included representatives from international cooperation agencies, producer associations, exporters, private intermediaries, research and extension institutions, NGOs, government representatives, and financial organizations, as well as companies specializing in traceability solutions. These participants contributed their diverse perspectives, enriching the workshop discussions with a broad range of opinions. Their insights were fundamental in collaboratively developing a Digital Infrastructure in the Public Interest (DIPI) proposal, which aims to improve traceability and ensure compliance with environmental and commercial regulations of the EUDR, thereby promoting a sustainable and equitable future for Honduras's coffee value chain. 

In this context, the Alliance for Digital Integration of Agricultural Supply Chains (DIASCA) emerges as an initiative whose main objective is to develop common open standards that support interoperability between traceability systems. Responding to EUDR, DIASCA specialists are working on the creation and validation of solutions through reference projects covering various value chains. The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT has joined this initiative and is working with these key stakeholders in the coffee value chain in Honduras. 

What is the EUDR (European Union Regulation on Deforestation-Free Products)?

The EUDR is a regulation of the European Union designed to reduce global deforestation caused by products imported into the European market. This regulation requires companies to demonstrate that the products marketed within the EU are not associated with the conversion of forests or wooded areas, ensuring that they do not contribute to biodiversity loss or climate change caused by deforestation. The EUDR requires full traceability and due diligence systems that allow verifying the origin of the products and ensuring that their production has not involved the destruction of forest areas. 

Within the framework of EUDR compliance, a Digital Infrastructure in the Public Interest (DIPI) refers to a technological infrastructure developed and managed in collaboration between the public and private sectors, which facilitates the digitization and automation of key processes. This includes the implementation of effective traceability and geolocation systems that allow monitoring and verifying compliance with legal requirements in the supply chain, especially those related to deforestation. This digital infrastructure supports the collection, management, and analysis of large volumes of data in a secure and accessible manner, ensuring that products imported into the European Union comply with established environmental and social regulations. 

Interoperability refers to the ability of various traceability systems and organizations to work together effectively. This allows data related to the coffee supply chain - such as the origin of the product and sustainable production practices - to be compatible, and can be exchanged seamlessly between different actors. 

Traceability systems refer to the technological tools and processes designed to track and document the complete journey of products from their origin to the end consumer. In the coffee industry, these systems verify that the beans do not come from deforested areas and comply with the environmental and social standards established by the European Union. 

Deforestation refers to the significant removal or degradation of forests or wooded areas to convert them into agricultural land without forest cover. This includes the felling of trees and the conversion of land for agricultural, industrial, or urban development uses. The EUDR seeks to prevent the entry of products associated with deforestation into the European Union market, promoting sustainable and responsible practices in global supply chains. 

Stakeholder Workshop Insights Driving sustainability in the coffee value chain through traceability systems

Brian King in the introductory presentation of the workshop on Common Interests and Joint Solutions for EUDR Compliance. Photo credit: Mirian Colindres, Alliance Bioversity International & CIAT (2024). 

Methods 

The team from the Alliance designed the workshop after a consultation phase where 18 key actors in Honduras's coffee supply chain were interviewed. During these interviews, specific questions were asked about everything from the role of each organization in the value chain, to their main concerns and possible solutions regarding the EUDR. The answers helped the Alliance's researchers to identify areas of consensus and topics that required further discussion. 

These preparatory efforts were fundamental to ensure that the workshop addressed the most important concerns and facilitated a result-oriented discussion. At the workshop, the Alliance's team and participating stakeholders discussed the points of consensus and dissent. They addressed the principles, governance, and implementation of a DIPI to comply with the EUDR. Brian King, Federico Ceballos-Sierra, and Jenny Wiegel created an open dialogue space where participants could freely discuss various issues. By confirming common ground and debating points of dissent, the stakeholders explored diverse perspectives and potential solutions, further enriching the collaborative environment for the successful development of the DIPI.

Objective 

An Alliance research team working on the compliance of coffee production designed the workshop to foster pre-competitive collaboration and dialogue on how different traceability systems can work together. This emphasis on interoperability is imperative for European importers, as they will use traceability data to pinpoint the precise farms from which their coffee originates. This detailed information will facilitate the verification that coffee production has not contributed to deforestation using a geolocalization system (which can be accomplished by utilizing the geographic polygons of the farms or strategic points determined by GPS coordinates based on the size of each farm). 

During the sessions, participants identified barriers and explored opportunities to drive innovation and efficiency in the coffee supply chain. Participants also looked at ways to strengthen interorganizational collaboration in compliance with the EUDR. The collaborative effort focused on reviewing consensus and dissent points identified through expert consultations in preparation for the workshop. They worked together to ensure that the wording in each section of the consensus points on the construction of a DIPI for EUDR compliance in the Honduras coffee value chain reflected agreement and was acceptable to all participants. Throughout the workshop, the Alliance's research team paved the way to develop practical solutions, promoting dialogue among diverse actors to effectively address the sector's challenges. 

Precompetitive collaboration refers to cooperation between various entities such as companies, organizations, or individuals, that are usually competitors but decide to work together in areas of common interest before market competition comes into play. This collaboration can include sharing knowledge, technologies, practices, and resources to achieve common goals. In the context of DIASCA and the Alliance, precompetitive collaboration is designed to foster dialogue on the interoperability of traceability solutions. 

A geolocation system refers to the set of technologies and procedures used to determine and record the exact geographical location of products or resources along the supply chain. This system uses technologies such as GPS (Global Positioning System) to assign precise geographical coordinates to the products, which is fundamental to verify that these do not come from areas subject to illegal deforestation. 

Results

Principles

The participants reached a consensus on the four operational principles outlined during the discussions. They emphasized the need for specific and objective regulation by the European Union for a DIPI, ensuring its effectiveness, security, and fairness through clear and accessible regulation. They highlighted the importance of the DIPI for supporting economic and environmental sustainability in coffee production. 

To achieve this, the participants agreed that small-scale producers must be provided with tools that allow them to access and benefit from global markets. The tools would improve traceability and access to markets, resulting in mutual benefit for both producers and consumers. They also emphasized that transparency and accountability should be the pillars of DIPI operations. These values would not only ensure the sustainability of the value chain but also ensure compliance with international regulations such as the EUDR.

Finally, participants highlighted the issue of data privacy and security, stating that DIPI must consider informed consent and comply with national and EU regulations, ensuring responsible and fair handling of information. 

Agreed-upon Principles

1.1 Demand from the EU for objective and specific regulations and guidelines for the DIPI.

1.2 The need for the DIPI to support economic and environmental sustainability in the coffee sector.

1.3 Transparency and accountability are important principles in the operation of the DIPI.

1.4 Privacy and data security standards for the DIPI should contemplate informed consent in the use of information and compliance with national and EU regulations.

Stakeholder Workshop Insights Driving sustainability in the coffee value chain through traceability systems - Image 4

Jenny Wiegel and Brian King interact with participants in an open discussion exercise during the workshop on Common Interests and Joint Solutions for EUDR Compliance. Photo credit: Mirian Colindres, Alliance Bioversity International & CIAT.

Governance 

During the discussions, participants agreed that the governance of the DIPI must be multi-stakeholder, integrating both public and private entities. This approach would prevent duplication of efforts and ensure a framework for cooperation, training, innovation, and shared responsibility. Participants highlighted the value of including all users in this process to ensure their perspectives and needs are considered, contributing to the creation of a representative and equitable DIPI. Finally, they stressed the need to determine whether the governance of the DIPI should be led by the government or the private sector. They agreed to work together on a robust and flexible governance mechanism to ensure an effective balance between these two parties. 

Agreed-upon Governance Statements

2.1 The governance model should be multi-actor with participation from both the public and private sectors.  

2.2 The governance model should ensure the participation of all stakeholders.  

2.3 Leadership in the governance of the DIPI is a point that requires further consideration to reach a consensus on whether it should be led by the government or the private sector. 

Stakeholder Workshop Insights Driving sustainability in the coffee value chain through traceability systems - Image 5

Jenny Wiegel listens to participants' opinions in the commons debate exercise during the workshop on Common Interests and Joint Solutions for EUDR Compliance. Photo credit: Mirian Colindres, Alliance Bioversity International & CIAT. 

Implementation 

The participants agreed to develop and adopt an integrated platform for managing the DIPI. This platform will facilitate access to information and optimize resources and data management. Furthermore, it will enhance coordination among value chain actors, promoting innovation and sustainability across the sector. For the implementation of the DIPI, they recognized the need for training and education, committing to support educational initiatives ranging from basic technical knowledge to advanced skills in digital technologies. The participants understood that collaboration and coordination are key factors in optimizing the resources allocated to this initiative. Therefore, they proposed establishing communication mechanisms to ensure the alignment of complementary projects and actions. Additionally, they suggested pre-competitive collaboration for the design of the DIPI, promoting synergies and ensuring inclusive solutions. The workshop concluded with the drafting of consensus points on the construction of a DIPI and the planning of future actions. 

Agreed-upon Implementation Statements

3.1 The need for an integrated platform for DIPI.  

3.2 The need for training and education in the application of DIPI.  

3.3 Need to avoid duplication of efforts.  

3.4 Need for pre-competitive collaboration. 

Next Steps 

The participants agreed on the importance of organizing and distributing the information obtained during the workshop to ensure that all involved parties are informed and aligned. They expressed the need for DIASCA to develop a functional prototype of the DIPI that integrates various systems, ensuring privacy and improving data management efficiency. Additionally, they proposed that Brian King, a representative of DIASCA, meet with the Deputy Secretary of the Coffee Sector of Honduras to discuss the progress of governmental actions on coffee traceability. 

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Members of the organizing team for this workshop

  • Brian King is the head of the Data Innovation Accelerator at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).  
  • Byron Reyes is a Scientist in the PISA/FAE unit at the Alliance of Bioversity International & CIAT.  
  • Fernanda Soto-Joya is a social anthropologist specializing in gender analysis. She is currently a consultant at the Alliance of Bioversity International & CIAT.