A call to support farmers in conservation efforts

This year World Environment Day focuses on Colombia, the 2nd most biodiverse country in the world and known for its richness of different specialty coffee origins. Here, take a look at how coffee farmers are managing nature in one of the globe´s biodiversity hotspots: Colombia

Challenges for coffee in relation to climate change and biodiversity

The livelihoods of 12 million producers depend on coffee, many of whom are vulnerable to climate change. Climate change will reduce the global area suitable for coffee by about 50% across emission scenarios. It has also been forecast to reduce the productivity of Arabica coffee plantation. Coffee could migrate to higher latitudes or altitudes. These migrations threaten ecosystems and increase deforestation in key ecosystems across the globe. Researchers have concluded that biodiversity protects ecosystems against (plant) diseases. Loss of species from an environment could have dangerous consequences for the spread and incidence of infections, including those that affect humans.

Solid business case for farmer, industry and consumer

Solidaridad supports coffee farmers in Colombia to adapt to climate change and to protect biodiversity at and around their farms.  The positive impact of better environmental management translates into higher productivity, more consistency in quality and volumes, lower risks and additional income. Carlos Isaza, Solidaridad´s Coffee Programme Manager in Colombia, notes the importance of climate change in relation to the future of coffee for the country.

The adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is critical for the survival of the Colombian coffee sector and its specialty origins." – Carlos Isaza

Based on earlier results of our Climate Smart Agriculture interventions, there is now a proof of concept that has validated the win-win situations for farmers, cooperatives, traders, roasters and consumers. From a global perspective, better management of natural resources and carbon sequestration/reduction by farmers will provide important contributions to the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) agreed under the Paris Agreement in 2016. Climate Smart Agriculture helps to bring down true costs of coffee production and reduces supply chain risks for traders and roasters. It allows farmers to remain in existing agricultural zones, avoiding encroachment in forests and high conservation areas.

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Proven solutions with positive impact for farmers and the environment

Since 2013, Solidaridad supports Colombian coffee growers with the adoption of agroforestry systems, the use of low-carbon fertilization practices, as well as soil management and biodiversity conservation. With the funding of Norway´s International Forest and Climate Initiative – NICFI, managed by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), nearly 6,000 coffee growers have started applying climate-smart practices and more than 15.000 hectares were transformed into agroforestry production systems.

This year over 20,298 trees have been planted with the support of local coffee communities, providing food security to producers and their families. A new generation of producers now own forestry micro-enterprises, generating additional resources through nurseries where native tree species are cultivated and distributed among coffee lots. From an environmental perspective, participating farms have been able to reduce their carbon footprint 30% on average. Watersheds are protected by local communities and hunting practices have been abolished. Due to the better conservation practices of these coffee producers and the collaboration with national park officials, the endangered Andean bear is now more regularly seen in the neighbouring nature reserves (Parque Nacional Tatamá, Risaralda). 

The Andean bear is benefitting from better conservation practices

Colombia is a biodiversity hotspot and uniquely positioned as a testing ground for solutions to balance nature and agriculture, due its condition as a leading producer of  sustainably certified agro-commodities such as coffee, palm oil and banana. “Farmers can play a pivotal role in protecting biodiversity and natural resources”, concludes Joel Brounen, Solidaridad´s Country Manager in Colombia, “but in order to do so, we must provide incentives and stimulus for biodiversity conservation efforts, adapted to farmer needs and at a much wider scale as currently done”.

A portion of the participating farmers in the current programme already received payments for the conservation efforts at and around their farm. These so-called Payment for Environmental Services (PES) schemes have been able to increase their coverage in Colombia over the past decade. PES schemes can be considered as another good example of why this country is an interesting laboratory to craft new conservation models, taking into account the perspective of farmers.

Solidaridad would like to thank Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), Federación Nacional de Cafeteros, COOPCAFER, Nestlé and over 15 producer organizations for their contribution to the success of the Coffee of the Future programme and for its continuous support in our journey to make farming compatible with conservation efforts.

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