Drip irrigation project

Location: Nicaragua

Impact Area

  • Nutrition
  • Water
  • Rural Development
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Compliance
  • Community engagement
  • Gender balance & diversity
Sep 18, 2012, updated September 2012

Drip irrigation project
THRIVING COFFEE PLANTS:Low-cost drip irrigation technologies have proven to speed up plant growth and improve coffee quality.

The aim of this project is to develop a low cost drip irrigation system to be used in coffee plantations. Through the sustainable use and control of water, we can speed plant growth and achieve better quality crop, including during water stress periods. The project is a public-private partnership between Nestec, ECOM, and two American-based NGOss, Rainforest Alliance and iDE.

During the project period between 2007 and 2010, over 1,500 small coffee producers were expected to participate.

Programme description

In 2006, a pilot programme with low cost and low pressure systems was introduced in 11 plantations in Nicaragua. The field results that same year showed a significant increase in production of 40-60%, as well as rapid growth in young plants. New plants irrigated produced in 2 years in comparison to 3 years for those plants not irrigated. The same results were confirmed in 2007 and 2008.

Supplementary irrigation is very important during flowering and stress periods, due to the lack of rain. During this critical growth period, a lack of irrigation could have a strong negative impact on coffee performance and quality.

In the frame of this project in 2008, 32 drip irrigation systems were installed in Nicaragua and 9 in Honduras.

Value to Society

Value to Nestlé

Next Steps

In practice, coffee plants are generally not irrigated. Recent experiences show that when supplementary irrigation is used during stress periods where soil humidity is low (especially during flowering periods), an increase in productivity, plant growth and quality are achieved.

The purpose of this project is to introduce, implement and monitor low cost drip irrigation systems and integrate this technology as a part of a sustainable, economic, social, and environmentally certified coffee value chain.

This initiative aims to help producers in the following coffee zones in Nicaragua: Matagalpa, La Dalia, El Cua, Waslala, Wiwili, Jinotega, Ocotal, Carazo, Boaco, and Esteli; in addition to the implementation of other projects in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.