Nestlé’s subsidiary companies, Nescafé and Nespresso, depend on Colombian suppliers for raw materials. Many of these suppliers are smallholders whose crops are dependent on local weather conditions. In the face of a changing climate, both Nestlé and its Columbian coffee suppliers need a reinforced environmental resilience. For this reason, Nestlé has partnered with multiple other organizations to formulate an Intelligent Water Management (IWM) plan – specifically the Manos al Agua framework.
Colombia is one of the major coffee producing countries where Nestlé sources its green beans, meaning that climate and water related challenges facing the Colombian coffee sector have a direct impact on its sourcing of raw materials. The problems faced in Colombia are complex; the region endures a dual water challenge with both shortage and excess, with 23% of the population facing problems accessing water during dry years and close to 10% affected by intense rain. This water imbalance has a strong negative effect on the productivity of farms, with harvest drops of up to 40%.
The IWM is a public-private partnership involving the Colombian Ministry of Rural Development, the Colombian Federation of Coffee Growers, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Wageningen University and Research Centre, and Nestle (Nescafe and Nespresso).
The regional Intelligent Water Management project seeks to make the Colombian coffee sector more resilient to the effects of climate change and water scarcity through improved environmental performance at the farm and watershed level.
Even simple behavioral changes implemented by the Manos al Agua program, such as using basins of water to wash coffee beans rather than leaving the tap running, have cut water consumption in half, so the information generated at the top of the scheme (Wageningen University) has already proven useful.
To meet Nestlé’s goal of implementing all action plans defined for improved water management in their upstream supply chains for coffee in high-priority areas by 2020, Nestlé intends to continue to support the good work of the Manos al Agua community participation groups.