Innovative, Low-Tech Solution to Treat Coffee Wastewater Accepted within Rainforest Alliance Standards

The use of vetiver-grass filtration has been championed by the CAFE project as a cost-effective way to treat coffee wastewater in Peru

Lima, Peru TechnoServe has announced that the use of vetiver grass wetlands to filter wastewater from coffee processing–a practice introduced to Peru by the Coffee Alliance for Excellence (CAFE) program–has been accepted within the Rainforest Alliance’s certification standards.

Coffee is an important, lucrative agricultural export that supports the livelihoods of thousands of farming families in Peru. However, when farmers wet-process the recently harvested coffee cherries, they can generate wastewater that ends up in rivers, streams, and subterranean aquifers, potentially contaminating waterways shared by the community. Cost has typically presented one significant barrier to properly treating this wastewater: the two primary existing filtration options, percolator wells and sedimentation wells, are often prohibitively expensive for smallholder farmers to construct.

First applied to coffee wastewater by TechnoServe programs in Ethiopia, vetiver filtration technology presents a cost-effective, environmentally sound alternative. In this approach, vetiver grass is planted downhill from coffee washing stations, forming wetlands that absorb the majority of the contaminated wastewater. Any excess water that the vetiver cannot absorb is collected into a pond, rather than flowing into rivers.

Since 2019, the CAFE program—a USAID initiative implemented by TechnoServe and supported by Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE) that benefits 8,400 coffee-growing families in Peru—has helped farmers implement vetiver-grass filtration systems across three regions of the country.

The announcement by the Rainforest Alliance that a properly implemented vetiver grass wetland conforms with the organization’s certification standards is an important milestone. It will allow thousands of farmers to cost-effectively manage their wastewater while benefiting from the improved incomes derived from Rainforest Alliance certification of their coffee.

“At TechnoServe, our coffee programs are always looking to deliver solutions that boost farmers’ livelihoods and resilience while protecting and regenerating natural resources,” said Carole Hemmings, TechnoServe’s global coffee sustainability director. “CAFE’s work in Peru exemplifies this vision: using the vetiver filtration method, farmers reduce their waste, avoid contaminating their soil, and protect the waterways that support their communities.”



Founded in 1968, TechnoServe is a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty for good. A non-profit organization working in 30 countries, we work with people to build a better future through regenerative farms, businesses, and markets that increase incomes. Our vision is a sustainable world where all people in low-income communities have the opportunity to prosper.

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