Sustainable cocoa and coffee

Not your average coffee: innovation and sustainable practices for high-quality Kerinci Specialty Coffee

July 13, 2023
Gabriella Andries
Communication Coordinator

One of the major challenges coffee farmers face is the lack of knowledge and understanding of sustainable practices. This can lead to lower-quality coffee, decreased yields, and higher production costs. Adopting sustainable practices and innovative techniques can increase yields and enhance the quality of coffee beans, leading to higher coffee prices and a more sustainable income.

In the Kerinci Regency of Indonesia, Rikolto has supported the Koerintji Barokah Bersama Cooperative in creating high-quality Kerinci Specialty Coffee and providing a living income for its members already since 2017. We do so by building farmer capacity for good agricultural practices, facilitating multistakeholder partnerships, encouraging income diversification strategies, and fostering innovation in the coffee sector.

How Koerintji Barokah Bersama Cooperative is producing high-quality Kerinci Specialty Coffee

Koerintji Barokah Bersama Cooperative has made impressive achievements in consistently producing award-winning coffee. Through sustainable cultivation and creative processing techniques, the cooperative continues to create unique flavour profiles and ensure that its coffee beans are of the highest quality. Rikolto has been supporting the cooperative to manage post-harvest handling in order to produce these high-quality coffees.

In 2021, Koerintji Barokah's anaerobic honey coffee was ranked sixth with a score of 88.49 at the Cup of Excellence, a prestigious specialty coffee competition that discovers amazing coffees worldwide. In 2022, Koerintji Barokah's coffees with the natural anaerobic, anaerobic wash, and natural lactic processes reached the top 22 positions with scores above 87. They were auctioned at a value of over 40,000 USD or approximately 600 million Rupiah.

Market demand drives innovation at Koerintji Barokah Cooperative

All of these coffees are the result of Koerintji Barokah Cooperative's innovation. In the past, Koerintji Barokah mainly did washed, honey, and natural processes, but through experimental processes, they expanded to anaerobic natural, anaerobic honey, lactic natural, and lactic wash processes. This dedication to innovation is driven by the need to meet market demand. In a market saturated with the same products, Koerintji Barokah Cooperative recognised the importance of developing unique and high-quality coffee to add more varieties to the Kerinci specialty coffee.  

The cooperative also involved many young people in the processing unit, which has contributed to the innovative spirit. In 2022, with the support of Rikolto, Fatarida, a member of the cooperative, was able to attain certification as a SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) roaster in 2022.

"Good coffee is produced from a good farm. Even with excellent processing techniques, the coffee plantation must be in great condition for the coffee to be exceptional. Through Rikolto, we learn about agroforestry and receive training on pruning, farm maintenance, and good agricultural practices. Coffees harvested from these farms were chosen to participate in the Cup of Excellence."

Triyono | Chairman of Koerintji Barokah Bersama Cooperative

Koerintji Barokah also continued a close partnership with Sucafina Specialty, which was initially brokered by Rikolto in 2020. In 2022, the cooperative was able to export more than 80 tonnes of its specialty coffee beans directly to Dubai, South Korea, London, California, and Belgium.

With support from Rikolto, Koerintji Barokah Cooperative was able to earn more trust and could gather more support from various stakeholders. In 2022, 12 farmer groups of Barokah received funding from the local government, Bank Indonesia, and the CSR Department of Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) to establish facility stations for pulping, drying, hulling, and sorting. Currently, 46 women are involved in the farmer groups, with a total membership of 381 farmers, all of them young people.

The potential of Agroforestry in Jambi

In 2022, as part of our effort to ensure a sustainable living income for farmers, we also conducted an agroforestry feasibility study for the coffee sector in Kerinci and Merangin Regencies in the Jambi province of Indonesia. The agroforestry research aims to promote a better regenerative and climate-smart approach to support Rikolto's Payment for Ecosystem Services initiative and coffee programme.

The World Agroforestry Centre defines agroforestry as a system of land use that combines trees with crops to increase profitability, both economically and environmentally. As farmers' motivation towards agroforestry is still low, due to their reliance on short-term economic benefits, it is essential to introduce farmers to how agroforestry can increase their farm’s productivity and provide additional sources of income. The use of shade trees in agroforestry also helps to regulate temperature, reduce evaporation, prevent soil erosion, and acts as a natural barrier against strong winds, which can damage coffee plants and reduce yields.

"From our observations, coffee with agroforestry tends to be more fertile, to have fresh leaves, and it is more resistant to rainfall. In the past year, it has been raining almost every day in Kerinci. The berries on trees with shade trees are relatively safer than those without shade." - Triyono  | Chairman of Koerintji Barokah Bersama Cooperative
Planting seedlings in an agroforestry-based coffee farm

Farmers of Kerinci Barokah Cooperative opted to plant avocado, lamtoro, banana, and eucalyptus alongside coffee. The choices of plants are based on the experience that these plants grow well in the Kerinci area and on their potential economic value.  

Rikolto also trained farmers in Kerinci to make compost from fermented, dried hard-skin coffee berries that would otherwise go to waste. The compost will be used for their farms, to promote soil health while allowing farmers to reduce costs and waste by recycling organic matter.

In the Jangkat and East Jangkat area of the Merangin Regency, the agroforestry model practised is commodity-based, combining cinnamon and coffee. The yields from these agroforestry systems currently support the household income of agricultural communities in the study area.  

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For agroforestry, it is essential to understand the biodiversity of trees or plants that once existed in the area. Past studies, local wisdom, and farmers' experiences can be very insightful sources of information. Appropriate use of shade trees based on local biodiversity can multiply the level of plantation biodiversity and the surrounding environment.  

This study provides valuable insights into improving our coffee programme. By understanding our partners' unique needs and challenges, we can adapt our agroforestry approach to ensure that future activities are more targeted and effective. This increases the likelihood of success, helps ensure sustainability of the efforts and a lasting impact on the local community.  

To inspire more adaptation of agroforestry techniques, we also disseminated the findings during an online event held in October 2022, involving relevant government agencies, universities, research institutes, NGOs, and the private sector. In 2023, we are conducting two more agroforestry studies in Enrekang Regency in South Sulawesi Province and Ngada Regency in East Nusa Tenggara Province. We are excited to share the research findings and disseminate this knowledge to promote better, more sustainable practices.

Not your average coffee

It's not about regular coffee. The demand for high-quality coffee that is produced sustainably keeps growing and provides an opportunity for farmers to earn a living income and avoid negative environmental impact. This requires fair prices, good agricultural practices, and income diversification strategies. Collaborative models that empower farmers and their communities, and involve government, private actors, NGOs and financial institutions are needed to innovate and make local communities and their surroundings thrive.

Editor: Heleen Verlinden - International Communications, Rikolto.

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