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Ecuador’s new deforestation-free certification scheme turns the coffee and cocoa trade into an ally for forests and climate

Blog | Thu, 15 Dec, 2022 · 7 min read
tasje koffie

Ecuador launched its national certification scheme for deforestation-free coffee and cocoa production at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt in November.  The certification scheme creates a bridge between Ecuador’s foreign commodity trade and its national climate action. The announcement was made at an event hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with Ecuador’s Minister of the Environment and the Chief Sustainability Officer of Lavazza, featuring the first samples of certified, commercial, deforestation-free coffee and cocoa.

Statements by the Minister of Environment of Ecuador and Lavazza’s Chief Sustainability Officer were complemented by video contributions featuring farmers from the Ecuadorian Amazon and the General Manager of the Guido Gobino and Silva Cocoa, two partner businesses, showing the multi-stakeholder nature of this partnership.

When the drivers of deforestation are buried deep in the supply chain, innovative and collaborative solutions are required. This pioneering deforestation-free certification scheme uses Ecuador’s national forest monitoring system, with carbon assessment methodologies validated by the UNFCCC, together with digital traceability systems, like QR codes, to verify that production is free from deforestation. The certification is traceable along the commercial chain, from the participating farmers to the individual consumer.

Until present, sustainability certification for coffee and cocoa has been based on voluntary project approaches and independent, NGO-based certification schemes. Aiming to catalyse transformational change, Ecuador has established a policy mechanism to stimulate and monitor deforestation-free production, and to certify it using digital technologies to connect the producers at origin with consumers in international markets. This initiative advances Ecuador’s national climate pledge, known as its Nationally Determined Contribution, and provides proof of concept for a model of deforestation-free commerce.

The launch of Ecuador’s national deforestation-free certification scheme also represents another significant milestone by an early partner country to the UN-REDD Programme. Ecuador has benefitted from National Programme and technical assistance support from UN-REDD Programme partner agencies since 2012, support that enabled Ecuador to implement its national REDD+ strategy, complete all the requirements to receive REDD+ RBPs, and advance its Premium & Sustainable strategy through its ProAmazonia Initiative.

The first products, coffee and chocolate, to reach international markets certified under this scheme demonstrate that agricultural sustainability requires multi-stakeholder collaboration. In this case, the result of a partnership between a government (Ecuador), farmer cooperatives (from Amazonia) and international companies (led by Lavazza and Silva Cocoa), each leveraging their respective skills, has led to achieving a common goal: deforestation-free, premium quality commercial sustainability. UNDP provided technical support for this initiative through Ecuador's PROAmazonia programme, working with Lavazza and local producers to develop a model to deliver premium quality, deforestation-free coffee.

“As APECAP’s [cooperative] legal representative of more that 200 coffee producers, I feel very proud to see that our product is recognised in the international market,” said Camilo Luzuriaga, a coffee farmer from the Ecuadorian Amazon that participated in the scheme. “That other people are building on the work and effort that we put in as producers, and above all that it is  economically rewarded, means producers can live with dignity.” 

This new certification scheme brought together three government ministries, including agriculture, environment and foreign trade. “It gives us hope that the national deforestation-free certification scheme and partnership with Lavazza has enabled farmer cooperatives to improve their products so that they can access international markets directly and earn a premium for their efforts,” said Ecuador’s Minister of the Environment, Mr. Gustavo Manrique.

The Chief Sustainability Officer of Lavazza, Mr. Mario Cerutti, said: “Lavazza Group is very honoured to be the only coffee company involved in this project since the beginning. This initiative is proof that high quality coffee can be combined with environmental and social sustainability features, and we believe that Ecuador can become a concrete example for many other coffee-producing countries.”

“UNDP is honoured to accompany Ecuador on this amazing journey towards deforestation-free agricultural production,” said UNDP Senior Advisor for Sustainable Finance, Ms. Mahenau Agha. “This exemplifies how local action can deliver global impacts for climate, forests and people.”

The partners of this innovative and sustainable commerce venture underlined their commitment to scale up the effort, both within Ecuador and in other interested countries across the world, in line with net-zero by 2030.