Organic coffee farmers in Lao PDR adapt to climate change, pests through training
Coffee is the world’s most popular beverage. Around the world, around two billion cups of coffee are consumed per day. To fill this need, more than 25 million farmers from over 50 countries produce and trade coffee beans.
In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), coffee is one of the country’s top three agricultural crops with the highest export value. For instance, the European Union imported €29 million worth of coffee and tea from Lao PDR in 2020.
Adding to this promising growth, consumers’ interest in organic food has risen over the years, due to health and environmental concerns. To keep up with the demand, Lao small and medium enterprises are eager to improve their knowledge and practices in organic coffee production, processing and marketing.
Khopchai coffee – a family business trains for the future
Thongma Thepsiri established Khopchai Coffee in 2018 – a family business in the Bolaven Plateau, Paksong in Lao PDR (around 700km from the capital Vientiane). His business involves coffee farming, harvesting, processing and packaging coffee beans for domestic sale. Although Bolaven Plateau is known for its ideal location and temperature for producing high-quality coffee, farmers like Thongma face inevitable challenges such as coffee pests, which significantly impacts his farm and other nearby farmers.
“This year’s harvest is incredibly low because of several reasons – unusual weather caused by climate change and the spread of coffee pests, particularly coffee stem-borers,” says Thongma.
To help farmers and small businesses address such challenges and increase their competitiveness in the regional and global market for organic coffee, the International Trade Centre is partnering with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and Lao Coffee Association through the EU-ARISE Plus project to offer training for farmers like Thongma.
“I now understand organic principles better, including what products are recommended and what is not based on organic standards. I was impressed to learn more about reusing food waste and scraps from our farms and turning them into organic fertilizers. This will be very useful for my farm.”
The training with over 50 participants who joined virtually, focused on “Starting Organic Coffee Farms in Lao PDR”. It is part of the EU-funded initiative, the ASEAN Regional Integration Support to Lao PDR (ARISE Plus), that supports sustainable agricultural value chain development in Lao PDR. The next training for the intermediate course will take place in mid-February 2022.
“In June 2021, over 70 people from various backgrounds like farmers, cooperatives, and small businesses participated in the first organic coffee farms training. Participants responded well to the training and felt it had a positive impact on them,” explains Khankeo Moonvong, ARISE Plus Lao PDR Project Coordinator of the International Trade Centre in Vientiane. “We look forward to the next training.”
A collaboration that goes a long way
Besides the ARISE Plus project, ITC has a long history of collaboration with the Lao Government. In 2019, ITC and the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry organized a workshop as part of the Trade for Sustainable Development Hub. Thongma also benefited from this workshop and learned about sustainability standards, such as Fairtrade and organic.
About Arise Plus Lao PDR
The ASEAN Regional Integration Support – Lao PDR Trade-Related Assistance project (ARISE Plus Lao PDR) is funded by the European Union (EU). It aims to contribute to inclusive economic growth, increased climate change resilience, mitigation of vulnerability and job creation in Lao PDR.