The Care Project: Tackling Climate Change in Coffee Farming

The Care Project: Tackling Climate Change in Coffee Farming

December 17, 2019

Globally, coffee producers are found more and more vulnerable to the effects of climate change because of irregular weather patterns, warmer temperatures and increased outbreaks of pests and diseases.

Doña Grace Navarro, a proud owner of Jardin Ecologico Los Navarro, has taken on sustainable farming in the battle against climate change. She originally began farming organically because she realized she is allergic to chemicals. She then became passionate about taking care of the environment and created a butterfly garden on her property. 

“The idea behind the butterfly garden was to conserve the butterflies of the region, especially on the farm,” said Grace. “Not for commercial reasons but for them to have an ecosystem where the butterflies could be conserved.”

Climate change is not only an agricultural and environmental issue, but it is also a socioeconomic one. Many farmers are forced to migrate due to crop loss or experience challenges with rampant plagues that have become more pronounced in the recent era with the climate change. Adapting to these changes is imperative in order for the coffee industry to survive because it threatens the supply of coffee at a worldwide level. 

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations, over the past 50 years there is a 90 percent probability that humans are responsible for the greenhouse gases that have caused climate change. About 24 percent of all greenhouse gases are a result of agriculture. 

Source: ICPP 2014

“The ideal climate [for coffee production in the region] was the one before - it no longer exists. There was a [clearly marked] wet season and a dry season,” said Grace. “Right now we are in the rainy season and it is very dry. I feel like coffee has to adapt itself little by little to climate change.”

Farmers are having a difficult time battling many pests including the notorious coffee leaf rust disease which has devastating effects on farmers, especially smallholders. This is because the combination of heavy rains and high temperatures allow pests and diseases to thrive. 

About 18 million bags of coffee were lost between 2012 and 2018 because of pests. Climate change is forcing farmers to buy herbicides and pesticides that they cannot afford.

According to the Specialty Coffee Association, it is predicted that the global temperature will rise between 0.5 and 8.7 degrees by 2,100 if current rates continue. 

The change in temperature is affecting global weather patterns and making it difficult to distinguish between wet and dry seasons. The lack of rain in the wet season is threatening coffee supply because water is a vital factor for the industry. 

The most suitable average temperature for coffee is between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 21 degrees Celsius). Coffee can survive in 86 Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) but quality reduces tremendously due to stress. 

According to the New York Times, Central America is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change with thousands of migrants making their way to the United States. The average temperature of the region has increased by two degrees Fahrenheit in the last couple of decades making many regions coffee regions that once flourished suddenly unsuitable. 

Grace tries her best to conserve water on her farm and does this in the most practical way, by having her coffee in the shade - with various trees. Reforestation on coffee farms can be extremely effective because it reduces landslides, flooding, pests and diseases.

“I don’t think coffee without shade works anymore because it is too hot, we have to have it in the shade,” said Grace. “I have a lot of trees, it is part of the coffee plantation. There should not be a monoculture, it should be integrated… It is economical for families because you save money since you have food on the farm…This is the mentality I believe coffee producers need to change, have integrated coffee that is sustainable with the environment”

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