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Introducing Rodney Nikkels as our newest Board Member: A Dedicated Advocate for Smallholder Farmers

Welcome, Rodney Nikkels, to the Board of Progreso! We are thrilled to have such a passionate individual join our team. Rodney's commitment to improving the lives of smallholder coffee and cacao farmers has been unwavering, even before Progreso existed the way it is now. 

Want to join us managing Progreso’s projects in Asia?

Welcome, Rodney Nikkels, to the Board of Progreso! We are thrilled to have such a passionate individual join our team.

Rodney’s commitment to improving the lives of smallholder coffee and cacao farmers has been unwavering, even before Progreso existed the way it is now. 

His motto, “Just continue until it’s finished,” reflects his relentless pursuit of positive change.

Rodney’s journey with Progreso began when he recognized the pressing need to uplift smallholder farmers and cooperatives. Through the Green Development Foundation’s (GDF) program, he understood that addressing poverty among these farmers required a holistic approach that extended beyond improving trade prices in the coffee sector. This realization led to the development of Progreso’s predecessor, which aimed to enhance farmers’ access to markets, finance, and institutional support. Initially focusing on coffee farmers, the program later expanded to include cacao farmers.

Positioning Progreso as a prominent player in the coffee sector

During this period, the coffee market experienced a significant crash (read more about this in the blog by Jos Algra for Beyco.nl), followed by a surge in demand for specialty coffee, particularly in the United States. Rodney’s program played a pivotal role in positioning, what is nowadays Progreso, as a prominent player in the coffee sector. It secured funds to finance contracts, emphasized climate adaptation and mitigation, and introduced market access instruments like the Beyco platform.

After 12 years, Rodney returns to Progreso as a board member, bringing with him a wealth of experience and a deep-rooted connection to the organization. His expectations and aspirations for Progreso are centered around two key factors: innovation and independence. As a smaller organization, Progreso possesses the agility to drive innovation, which can sometimes be lacking in larger entities.

Shifting towards professionalization

Rodney identifies shifting from smallholder farming practices to professionalization as a critical area for focus. While cooperatives have already shown progress in this regard, individual smallholder farmers face challenges, primarily due to the small size of their plots. In many cases, these small plots are a result of inheritance, leading to fragmented and unprofitable land holdings. Furthermore, decades of intensive agriculture have left many fields degraded, prompting farmers to deforest new areas for cultivation.

However, Rodney believes there are alternative approaches to address these issues. With the emergence of the carbon market, there is an opportunity to invest in land restoration and empower farmers to reclaim accountability. Cooperatives can acquire degraded land at affordable prices, allowing farmers to subscribe to these plots. By taking responsibility for restoring and maintaining the land, farmers become its owners. This approach particularly emphasizes engaging the youth, the new generation of farmers.

A sustainable business case

Despite the complexity involved, Rodney firmly believes that by combining various financial tools, a compelling and sustainable business case can be created—one that not only appeals to stakeholders but also uplifts those in greatest need. It all comes down to making the right choices.

With Rodney Nikkels on our Board, Progreso is poised to continue its vital work in transforming the lives of smallholder farmers. Through innovation, independence, and a commitment to professionalization and land restoration, Progreso aims to create lasting change in the agricultural sector.

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