How Technology is Supporting Deforestation-Free Coffee Supply Chains

TechnoServe is introducing a free, open-source Android application for capturing and sharing geotagged farm-level sourcing data. This application will help coffee farmers and exporters comply with new European Union deforestation regulations.

Two coffee farmers in Honduras inspect their coffee trees.

New regulations to address deforestation within global supply chains, such as the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), are creating challenges and opportunities. TechnoServe is developing a free Android application to help coffee farmers and exporters comply with EUDR regulations, ensuring traceability down to the farm level. The application, currently in beta testing in select countries, has the potential to benefit over 25 million smallholder coffee farmers worldwide, fostering improved inclusivity and transparency.

The Link Between Agriculture and Forest Loss

Over 1.6 billion people worldwide depend directly on forests, which provide numerous environmental, social, and economic benefits. Forests are home to more than 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and absorb a net 7.6 billion metric tons of CO2 annually. In addition to protecting biodiversity and acting as essential carbon sinks, forests provide substantial economic benefits to local communities, such as timber and non-timber forest products. 

Despite their global importance, forests are disappearing at alarming rates – mainly due to agricultural expansion. Between 2001 and 2015, 27% of forest loss globally was linked to commodity-driven deforestation. Just seven commodities were responsible for most agriculture-related tree cover loss:

  • Cattle
  • Palm oil
  • Soy
  • Cocoa
  • Rubber 
  • Coffee 
  • Wood

These forest-risk commodities are the subject of new regulations to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. Deforestation is the conversion of forests into other land uses. Forest degradation occurs as forest ecosystems lose their ability to provide goods and services to people and nature. 

Cattle ranchers in central Nicaragua who are participating in TechnoServe's ResCA program. Photo by Olivia Sakai for TechnoServe.
A cattle rancher in central Nicaragua who participated in TechnoServe’s ResCA program. Photo by Olivia Sakai for TechnoServe.

Who Regulates Deforestation?

In recent years, there has been growing recognition that addressing commodity-driven deforestation must be a priority and can only be accomplished with buy-in from the public and private sectors. The private sector plays an important role because of its influence over global supply chains. However, it can be challenging for companies to monitor deforestation risks because their supply chains are often complex and lack transparency. 

Many companies are now implementing voluntary sustainable sourcing policies to reduce deforestation within their supply chains. At the same time, governments are introducing additional regulations to reduce deforestation. One of the most prominent examples in recent years is the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR). 

What is the European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR)?

EUDR is a new law that aims to prevent products and commodities linked to deforestation and forest degradation from entering the EU market. The law states that specific forest-risk commodities and products derived from them, such as beef and chocolate, can only be marketed in the EU if they meet specific requirements. 

The products must:

  1. Not originate from recently deforested land or contribute to forest degradation
  2. Be produced according to the laws of the government where they are produced
  3. Be covered by a due diligence statement

The EUDR was officially adopted in June 2023 but includes an 18-month transition period to allow companies that sell in the EU market to prepare for the new regulations. While these new regulations are important in addressing broader environmental issues, including climate change and biodiversity loss, they will significantly impact the companies sourcing these raw materials and the smallholder farmers who produce them.   

EUDR and the Challenge for Coffee Producers and Exporters  

Under the new EUDR requirements, companies are expected to have traceability down to the farm level, including geolocation data. Geolocation data provides the location of an object based on latitude and longitude coordinates. Companies must submit GPS data for individual farms of less than four hectares and polygon data for farms of more than four hectares. Polygon mapping involves tracing the entire perimeter of a farm rather than providing a single GPS coordinate.  

The global coffee supply chain is highly complex, making farm-level traceability difficult. Coffee exporters, who will be required to provide GPS data to their European customers, typically purchase coffee from various local traders or wet mills (coffee processing facilities). Most traders, agents, and wet mills lack the tools to collect and transmit GPS traceability data through the supply chain. Coffee exporters who fail to comply with the new EUDR GPS requirements will be unable to sell in the EU.

Much of the documentation burden will fall on the company importing to the EU, but the new regulations will also affect smallholder farmers. These farmers may be excluded from EU markets if the traders selling their coffee cannot provide the necessary data to prove that their coffee production was not linked to deforestation after December 2020. 

A training session with coffee farmers in Nicaragua. Photo by Douglas López for TechnoServe.
A training session with coffee farmers in Nicaragua. Photo by Douglas López for TechnoServe.

A New Mobile App to Support Compliance with EUDR

TechnoServe has worked with more than 800,000 coffee farmers across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, helping them improve the quality and yields of their coffee trees. We have also built, supported, or strengthened more than 1,000 coffee processors in Africa, which has helped increase the incomes of more than 500,000 farmers. 

To address traceability challenges in the coffee supply chain, TechnoServe is working with engineers at the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) to build a free, open-source Android application that will allow users to easily capture and share geotagged farm-level sourcing data. 

This app will be jointly developed with EUSPA, using authenticated, spoof-proof geolocation data from EUSPA Galileo satellites. EU coffee firms importing coffee for EU consumers can ensure compliance with EUDR legislation, also benefiting smallholder coffee farmers in Africa and Latin America.

– Dave Hale, Director, TechnoServe Labs 

The application will: 

  • Capture farmer data, including farmer name, village, farm latitude and longitude, and year farmer sold to an agent or wet mill
  • Allow the sharing of farmer data files via WhatsApp, Telegram, or email
  • Enable appending separate farmer data files to roll up supply from multiple traders or wet mills
  • Allow farmer data backup, export, and restore via CSV file
  • Standalone data storage

Beta testing will occur in Ethiopia, Kenya, Peru, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2023 and early 2024. The application is planned to be available to all coffee-producing countries in 2025. 

As a part of the testing, TechnoServe will also establish a set of best practices and recommendations for how coffee buyers can adapt their operations on the ground to EUDR requirements. For example, how to effectively collect and use geolocation data, how the EUDR may impact buying strategies, and understanding best practices for data collection and costs. 

Technology and the Future of Deforestation-Free Supply Chains

Digital tools will be essential in helping companies and producers monitor deforestation and comply with the new regulations. TechnoServe’s app will support coffee traders with the first critical step of collecting geolocation data required to achieve EUDR compliance and enable access to EU markets for over 25 million smallholder coffee farmers worldwide. The app fosters inclusivity and transparency and has the potential for scalability to other crops and regions selling to the EU. 


Olivia Sakai is a senior communications specialist at TechnoServe.