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Sustainable Tree Crops

AT KIT Royal Tropical Institute, we aim to improve the livelihoods of smallholder tree crop producers. Our work focuses on cocoa and coffee.

The Challenges Faced by Smallerholder Tree Crop Producers

Tree crops, such as cocoa and coffee, are important cash crops for millions of rural households. But most of these households are not able to earn a ‘living income’ from these crops. Productivity and production levels are low. Prices fluctuate dramatically. And the value added at producer level is limited. Moreover, tree crop farmers are faced with weak institutional environments, and the risks are high (e.g. climate change, pests and diseases, uncertain market access and seasonality of income).

Together with the Sustainable Development Goals, living income and gender are increasingly being embraced and advanced by industry actors from global value chains. But important challenges remain. For example, how can we address the many complex issues that leave many cocoa farmers in deep poverty? Or how can we put farmers and local SMEs at the centre of change, as active participants and influencers? And how can we add more value at the local level, instead of in global chains far away from the production level?

Our Approach & Expertise

Our mission is to contribute to a sustainable future for tree crop producers in developing economies. Specifically, we aim to improve smallholders’ livelihoods by:

  • Diversifying income sources to ensure a living income for farmers
  • Supporting strategies to increase the decision making power of rural households
  • Developing services to improve how value chains function and spur local economy growth
  • Understanding intra-household dynamics to support women and youth with their professional ambitions

We work with a diversity of actors who have a ‘stake’ in global value chains and who are needed to address the challenges of tree crop producers. These include companies and industry associations, international development organisations, foundations, NGOs and donor agencies.

At the same time, we believe that change cannot be transformative or inclusive if farmers are not firmly in the driving seat. We therefore work with farmer-centred design to develop contextualised solutions that start from the bottom up. Capacity building of farmer and other local organisations and strengthening local networks plays a key role in facilitating processes of grassroots innovation which respond to global market dynamics. Last – but certainly not least – we apply gender-sensitive approaches to develop solutions that take into account the diversity between and within farming households and are sensitive to intersecting and often conflicting social, economic and cultural dynamics.

Our Work in Sustainable Tree Crops

Our Services

Applied research

KIT Royal Tropical Institute addresses development challenges at local, regional and global levels through research that generates new insights and knowledge in our areas of expertise: health, sustainable economic development and gender.

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Front-runner Research

We offer action research and transdisciplinary research in global value chains. In the area of Sustainable Tree Crops, KIT conducts front-runner research about income diversification strategies, inclusive value chain collaboration, farmer-centred innovation, service delivery models, sustainable landscapes, market differentiation, women and youth empowerment, and closing the living income gap. This enables KIT to arrange evidenced-based advice to public and private sector organisations looking to improve their development impact. It also underpins KIT’s international convening role—bringing together different stakeholders, facilitating knowledge exchange, and supporting collaboration and innovation for rural transformation.

Education, training and coaching

There is probably no better contribution towards sustainable development than investing in people and building capacities at all levels. KIT Royal Tropical Institute plays a major role in this by offering a range of education and capacity building services, from formal education at masters level to client-oriented training and coaching support. Our training and coaching programmes are tailor-made to address the unique objectives and capacities of the requesting organisation.

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Monitoring, Evaluation & Impact Assessment

Monitoring, evaluation, and impact assessment are powerful tools to assess health, social, and economic impact. They allow us to learn what works and why. Our expertise and track record in these areas make us well-equipped to evaluate your work. 

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Policy & Programme Design

KIT Royal Tropical Institute operates at the intersection of theory and practice and between policy and implementation, translating good intentions into meaningful social and economic impact.

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