Studies show implementing the 4C Entry-level Standard contributes to more resilient farmers

Implementation of The 4C Entry Level Standard Contributes to More Resilient Farmers

According to studies just released on farmers that implement the entry level standard in Colombia, Uganda and Vietnam, there is now more evidence that this implementation contributes to more resilient yield, stronger supply chain relationships, lower and more efficient costs of production and efficient water use and treatment. Other improvements include reduced use of Biocides, Food quality and dietary improvement among farmers as well as more training on good agricultural practices. However, we also learn that farmers have challenges on some goals like improved safety at work, use of personal protective clothing, implementation of training received and considerable improvements in income just to name a few. A learning that will now inform our improvement measures.

In commissioning of impact studies in Uganda, Vietnam and Colombia, 4C Association helps in building the body of evidence on what change is contributed to on the ground when members and stakeholders implement the 4C entry level standard. The 4C Association also prescribes to the precepts that led to the designating of 2015 as the International Year of Evaluation specifically to promote evaluation and evidence-based policy making at international, regional, national and local levels.

It is one thing to theorise how change can be achieved as we have so described in our theory of change “For a better coffee world”. It is a different thing however to evaluate how far we are at achieving the outcomes we have described in the theory. The 2 impact studies that took place last year tend to answer the second question on what change, implementation of the principles and practices prescribed in the code, contributes to.

Colombia: Arabica

Entry level standard verification activities started in 2006, this study assesses the effect of the entry level standard implementation in Colombia according to the 4C Association Theory of Change. It aims to understand to what extent the initiative has helped to improve medium-term effects on coffee farmers’ natural resources management, market participation, social empowerment and profitability.

Data sets came from a broader research work conducted in Colombia by CRECE (The Centre for Regional Entrepreneurial and Coffee Studies) in collaboration with COSA. The data are available for years 2008, 2009, and 2011. Statistical procedures were used to ensure that the characteristics of the 4C farmers and the comparison groups were identical in all respects, other than the code implementation.

Uganda and Vietnam: Robusta

Entry level standard verification activities in the 2 countries also started in 2007, this report details the findings of an independent quasi-random experiment designed to answer the question if the 4C Association is on track to reach its long term objectives of improvement of livelihoods of coffee farmers and workers through sustainable practices resulting in higher efficiency, cost reduction, quality improvement and increased profitability in coffee production.

The approach chosen relies on the construction of a realistic counter-factual of what would have happened had a particular farmer not implemented 4C entry level standard. To this end, a control group of farmers was selected that were to the greatest extent possible similar to the groups of 4C farmer in all aspects except implementation of the entry level standard. Interviews in 2 countries (Vietnam and Uganda) focussed on gathering qualitative and quantitative data for analysis.

Entry level standard

The 4C entry level standard presents a set and principles and practices which if implemented are supposed to enable an entry level stage to coffee sustainability. The code also contains a set of Unacceptable Practices which members and stakeholders felt needed to be eliminated from the whole coffee industry if it were to move towards a sustainable future. The principles and practices continue to be relevant now more than ever as they describe some of the targets that the world hopes to achieve with the newly agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which seek to achieve economic prosperity, social fairness and justice as well as environmental sustainability. Key targets of the SDGs that resonate with the principles and practices prescribed in the standard, and expected results of implementation include: Improving livelihoods and eradication of poverty for coffee farmers, productivity and income of smallholders, increased proportion of land under sustainable and productive agriculture, improving land and soil quality, access to education and eradication of child labour, elimination of discrimination, eliminating water pollution, conserving water in coffee farming, processing and efficiency , energy conservation and worker welfare, just to name a few.

Attestation of compliance to these entry level principles and practices is also used by companies wanting to show in an efficient way that coffee they source meets an acceptable level of practices and has eliminated unacceptable issues. This is in line with SDG 12 call for sustainable production and consumption, where companies are asked to integrate sustainability information in their reporting cycle and need credible evidence to attest to this.

The future

As coffee stakeholders formed the Global Coffee Platform (GCP), a new era of sustainability for the entire coffee sector has started by merging the strengths and expertise of the 4C Association’s (4CA) multi-stakeholder membership platform and the successful pre-competitive (inter-)national programs of The Sustainable Trade Initiative’s (IDH) Sustainable Coffee Program (SCP): a public-private action agenda to bundle resources and reduce fragmentation in order to improve the livelihoods of millions of coffee farmers and reduce environmental impact. The practices and principles prescribed by the Common Code will remain a relevant guide for farmers to use in guiding their journey to a more sustainable coffee world.

The 4C entry level standard will continue to be operated by the newly formed independent and commercial, Coffee Assurance Services (CAS) to provide value to farmers worldwide as well as credible attestation of compliance to the principles and practices both for implementing farmers as well as their supply chain partners.

The Global Coffee Platform will in a pre-competitive manner promote the principles and practices in a Baseline Common Code as a Reference Code to governments, implementers and others to broaden outreach and impact of the global baseline. As owner of the Baseline Common Code, evidence of this achievement will continue to be sought and communicated by the Global Coffee Platform as a way of feeding back to the rules, priorities and actions of global coffee stakeholders.

The 4C Association is happy to see the publication of two impact studies which look at the contribution implementing the 4C Entry-level Standard has on the livelihoods of coffee farmers. To support the understanding of these studies, the 4C Association has prepared study highlights to each of them.


Please find here the detailed studies for Colombia and Vietnam and Uganda.

Please find here the 4C Association Management Response to Colombia and Vietnam and Uganda.