Intelligent water management in the Colombian coffee sector

Posted on 18 December 2014


This project wishes to solve the water imbalances (scarcity and excesses) in the Andean region of Colombia, which is where the majority of the population and coffee sector is located. 

The role of the coffee sector in this respect is important. According to recent studies coffee production is responsible for 55% of the grey water footprint (contamination through coffee washing and drying) in the agricultural sector, being the main user and contaminating factor. They are also the most effected, as main users of clean water resources in the Andean Mountains. 

Climate Change adds to the water imbalances: alternate water supply shortages or excessive rainfall and its effects such as flooding and landslides. The water imbalances negatively affect farm productivity (quantity and quality) and thus farm income. This in turn increases the shortfall of supply compared to the international demand of coffee. 

The project will be implemented in five departments of the Colombian Andean Mountains Range with coffee production, in 25 municipalities (25 micro water catchment areas), with 11,000 coffee farmer families. The coffee farms in this area are predominantly small-holder farms with an average of 0.7 hectares planted with coffee. 

This project, implemented by  the Colombian National Federation of Coffee farmers and its Coffee Research Institute CENICAFE, in partnership with Nestlé, Nestlé/Nespresso and WUR was made possible  by the Sustainable Water Fund (FDW)


  • Substantially improve coffee farmers’ incomes and living standards;
  • Increases the sector’s capacity to take decisive measures to anticipate and counteract bottlenecks in the availability and management of natural resources, mainly water.

Current status
Active: 2013-2018 

Project plan
The project intervention focuses on four result areas, which are closely related and feed into each other:

  1. The establishment of a Water Platform for dialogue, cooperation and the establishment of learning networks across private (not just coffee), public, academic and civil sectors to foster cooperation for integrated water management and ensure key actors are aware of the importance of water management and assume their responsibilities in this respect.
  2. Improvement of coffee production systems of 11,000 coffee farms in terms of environmental and productive performance (reduced water use and waste water production as well as treatment of the waste water that is produced) through knowledge transfer, farm improvements and technology transfer.
  3. Recovery and preservation of ecosystems associated with the production and watershed areas, through bioengineering practices in 8,000 farms and ecological restoration and reforestation of 90 hectares in riparian zones along the river line.
  4. Generation of strategic knowledge to support responsible decision making through establishment of a Water & Climate (W&C) monitoring system and Early Warning system.

More information: 
Alterra-Wageningen UR

Project location

Project partners

  • Alterra/Wageningen UR