United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

SAFE (Sustainable Agriculture, Food, and Environment) Platform


    SAFE is a multi-stakeholder initiative of the IDB Lab joining public and private sector partners who share a common vision to meet the challenges of sustainable agriculture and the inclusion of smallholder farmers in global value chains. SAFE funds innovative sourcing models providing services, training, and finance to coffee and cocoa farmers and cooperatives in Latin America. Unique is that all projects report on the same SDG-aligned metrics; the insights provide learning to every project partner for improvement. Shared learning incentivizes partners to think and conceptualize solutions in new ways. Funders see what is working and can prioritize solutions for scale.


    More than half of the food produced in Latin America comes from smallholder farmers, many of whom still live in poverty. In coffee and cocoa landscapes, climate change, gender, age disparity and non-climate-smart agricultural practices are a few of the main threats these farmers face. SAFE projects seek to transform these landscapes and demonstrate that producing 100 percent sustainable coffee and cocoa is possible while improving livelihoods. Innovation and a gender-inclusive approach are fundamental program characteristics of four SDG-aligned strategic areas: value chain improvements and responsible sourcing, climate-smart agriculture and resilient landscapes, access to financial services, and women and youth inclusion. Multi-dimensional indicators generate better data for projects to course-correct and improve their chances of success.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    The SDGs address relevant needs and goals for long term resilience and sustainability in smallholder coffee and cocoa communities. Thus, social, economic, and environmental performance indicators implemented and monitored by all project partners align to 13 of the 17 SDG goals, primarily numbers 1, 8, and 13 and serve as a thermometer for progress. As an ongoing tool, this cost-efficient model delivered through a transparent, central platform can continue to generate shared learning for shared benefit, even across very different kinds of projects, countries, and crops.

    Implementation methodologies

    The IDB Lab configured SAFE as a public-private partnership with a Steering Committee of 16 stakeholders (eventually 22 - http://www.safeplatform.org/main-partners) collaborating on the initiative’s ambition and content. Planning began in 2014; SAFE’s Executive Committee selected and awarded funding to first projects in 2016, with Hivos Latin America managing the Platform. Thanks to significantly higher private sector alignment and support (reaching USD $12.5M, or 60% of total $21M funded) the program exceeded expectations, funding 18 projects - 20 distinct initiatives - vs original target of 8, in 3 categories based on size and funding level. SAFE Platform looks for projects with current relevance (climate, gender, next generation, etc.) and with potential to scale, and has each project monitor a common set of vital metrics. Significantly, different projects in different geographies are measuring their efforts in a relatively uniform manner. Learning accelerates because data can be compared and benchmarked across topics, crops, and countries. Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning from inception was established as an essential component, with the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA) developing the metrics framework and tools for projects to use in Activity Reporting, Performance Monitoring, and Producer Organization Assessment; as well as the web-based SAFE partner platform to openly share activity and performance dashboards. Each project was implemented by a network of organizations tailored to each project’s needs. SAFE funding varied depending on the size and nature, but was roughly 40% of the project’s total execution costs. The core management of the Platform was a three-person team working with Hivos.


    SAFE measurably improved farmer livelihoods and landscapes, promoting fairer, more sustainable practices and markets including for women. It has raised the bar for M&E in sustainable development. Monitoring does not prove that projects caused the results, but projects provided extensive training in soil fertility, GAP, and loans for farm activities, which could reasonably be expected to have contributed to results that include: · 71% of farms adopted practices to combat climate change, and 49% adopted Good Agricultural Practices. Adoption of new practices is a necessary precursor to achieving goals. · 63% of producers had increases in productivity greater than or equal to 5% · Women’s sales since projects began increased by 9% · 55% of participating women gained access to credit Unanticipated data management weaknesses were resolved with support but exposed need overall for capacity building. Projects gave positive reception to feedback and exposure to new ideas.

    Factors and Constraints

    IDB leveraged its initial investment into significant private sector support. Hivos (management) and COSA (MEL framework & guidance) supported projects to incorporate tools and for credible reporting. The digital SAFE Platform for core data, dashboards and guidance ensured continuity across programs. Constraints included limited data in early years, and lack of capacity in data management in some projects. e.g. data cleaning protocols to allow for comparability across diverse programs. Consistent support and demonstrating value of learning enabled improvements, buy-in and even a spirit of collaboration among partners.

    Sustainability and replicability

    SAFE has created a mechanism for effective and ongoing learning in development projects. Replicability is enhanced by achieving agreement with partners and executing agencies to measure important development outcomes in ways that are consistent and standardized. Whether for climate adaptation, gender inclusion, or income generation, the data works across categories and geographies and points to differences, similarities, strengths, and opportunities to improve. SAFE is a model for how development funders can drive new levels of collective learning by emphasizing innovation and making efficient use of MEL resources. SAFE is pending renewal as of January 2021, but a similar model can be adapted or replicated to support SDG implementation in agri-food value chains elsewhere. The platform has received endorsement and interest from private sector organizations, and commitment from Hivos, which conducted consultations with partners to establish a new 5-year vision statement to continue.

    COVID-19 Impact

    2020 changed plans, but increased SAFE’s capacity to cope and see the importance of digital tools to strengthen communications. In-person events, such as a workshop with all project implementers to exchange experiences, became virtual events. With open channels of communication members found ways to support each other and communities in need due to COVID. Rethinking the intentions and priorities of in-person events resulted in members bringing other colleagues or organizations into conversations, allowing for more inclusive discussions. IDB and SAFE partners reallocated budgets to support farmers with basic supplies, coping, and safety protocols especially for migrant workers. Improved relationships and communication between buyers, roasters, and producers are likely here to stay.

    Contact Name
    Committee on Sustainability Assessment on behalf of Hivos Latin America and SAFE Platform
    1 2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 13 15 17
    Geographical coverage

    Projects also implemented in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru.

    20 January 2016 (start date)
    31 December 2020 (date of completion)
    More information
    Contact Information

    Louise, Director of Administration