Engage with suppliers, especially those in agriculture
Why it matters
Most of our impact on water sources comes from agricultural activities in our supply chains. It is by focusing our efforts here that we can have the greatest impact. We work with our suppliers to improve the water efficiency of their activities, tailoring efforts to address the specific water management needs of various locations.
What we are doing
In 2019, we worked closely with our suppliers to improve the water efficiency of their practices. We also developed new technologies to make it easier for farmers to monitor soil moisture. Read more about it in our 2019 progress report.
Demonstrating our commitment
Water Sense: cost-effective irrigation in Pakistan
Implementing soil moisture measuring technologies can improve irrigation efficiency by 10–15%. However, traditional monitoring devices cost between USD 2500 and USD 6500 per unit. With approximately three units needed per hectare, it is expensive and therefore unrealistic for many farmers. That is why we collaborated with the Institute of Water Informatics at LUMS University, Pakistan, to develop a more cost-effective solution. By re-engineering existing technologies, a smart sensor was developed. It produces the same results but at a 10th of the price, costing between USD 200 and USD 250. The sensors can help farmers to reduce water use by up to 12% while increasing crop productivity by 15%.
Complementing the device, a free, shareable program was developed and made available to all. This software will provide farmers with real-time irrigation updates, straight to their smart devices, enabling them to make adjustments to their water systems in a timely manner. Having piloted Water Sense at 10 different locations in Pakistan, including the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, the National Agricultural Research Council, the Mango Research Institute, the Water Management Department and on supplier farms, we are now focusing on rolling out this product on a global scale.
Improving irrigation efficiency in Vietnam and Brazil
For coffee growers in Vietnam, water is a critical issue. Plants are heavily irrigated throughout the season. During the dry season, frequent water shortages affect farmers and local communities. That is why, in collaboration with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Neumann Foundation, we developed the project More Coffee with Less Water, to work with coffee farmers to improve irrigation efficiency.
The project has shown that, through improved timings and efficiencies, farmers can reduce 40% of water usage annually compared to current irrigation practices while maintaining the same levels of productivity. In Vietnam, 50 000 farmers were trained on best irrigation practice techniques. Through this project, an app, WeGAP, was developed. It provides farmers with information on upcoming weather conditions and advice on best practices so they can make informed decisions about water requirements.
This project, which has now reached completion, resulted in roughly a 50% adoption rate (25 000) among farmers. This has translated into savings of around 50 million m3 of water per year since 2013 – enough water to fill approximately 20 000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. These savings translate to a generated value added of approximately USD 8.4 million. We have taken these lessons into our Farmer Connect supply chain as part of the Nescafé Plan, reaching out to an additional 14 000 farmers.
Going forward, we are focusing our efforts on Brazil, where water availability for irrigation is also an issue. Droughts have been growing in severity over the past few decades in Espírito Santo, resulting in farmers being unable to irrigate their coffee trees sufficiently. Similarly to our approach in Vietnam, we have engaged in a partnership with the Neumann Foundation to conduct a water dynamics study to understand the hydrogeological situation at watershed level. Based on the findings, we will work with innovative solution providers and farmers to develop improved irrigation recommendations to help farmers use less water while maintaining yields.