Fighting the Effects of Climate Change through a United Coffee Sector

Extreme droughts, heavy rainfalls, hailstorms, pests and diseases and climate change associated impacts such as an increasing gender gap and exacerbated poverty: People in tropical regions are the ones who suffer most from climate change. Within the coffee sector, this applies to the 12.4 Mio smallholder coffee farming families around the globe – who provide for no less than 80 % of the world’s coffee supply. They might be forced to migrate to different regions or to diversify out of coffee, if the changing conditions make coffee cultivation no longer possible where they live. In the worst-case scenario, their coffee landscapes might become unsuitable for coffee production.

There is only a small time frame left to act.

Things are not only changing – they are changing fast! Researchers and experts call for prompt and effective action, now more urgently than ever. So does the British climate scientist Dr. Peter Baker. He claims that by now, every country should ideally already have a comprehensive climate adaptation and disaster management team assembled, plans developed, and under implementation.​

There is no realistic chance of staying below 1.5°C anymore. Whereas the overall global temperature rise is now 1.1 to 1.2 °C, the global land temperatures are already at 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The global temperature increase therefore could hit 2.5°C or beyond by 2100 which will result in unforeseeable consequences.

Dr. Peter Baker

Climate Scientist

According to Peter Baker, there is only a small time frame left to act: The only chance to avoid catastrophic effects is for the coffee sector to work together immediately and in a concerted approach.

The coffee sector joins forces.

The shareholders of International Coffee Partners (ICP) have founded the initiative for coffee&climate (c&c) already in 2010 as a response to the severe situation. Since then, a public partner as well as further coffee companies have joined the program to work together with the founding members in a pre-competitive and collaborative way. Their cooperation is driven by their mutual interest to react to climate change and to develop solutions for smallholder coffee farming – and by the believe in the necessity to connect all aspects of coffee farming communities to create a viable, climate-smart future for coffee families and the coffee industry. This includes climate-smart agriculture and coffee regions, carbon offsetting, handling of agrochemicals, integrating of youth and supporting gender equality and knowledge transfer. Through the c&c toolbox, an open online platform, experiences and knowledge are also shared among farmers worldwide. This enables smallholder coffee farming families to effectively respond to climate change and safeguard their livelihoods.

Climate-smart techniques help smallholder coffee farmers to adapt to climate change.

Glenda Fuentes is one of the coffee farmers who is participating in the program of c&c. She lives in the highlands of Ocotepeque, Honduras. One day in 2018, when she was 25 years old, she noticed a drastic change in the appearance of her coffee leaves: yellow stains and dark orange spots. Known as the coffee leaf rust, this highly unknown fungus in the community caused foliage to wither until all their coffee trees resembled a skeleton.

That same year, Glenda and her husband Juan Ángel wiped their entire farm clean and started to re-plant coffee trees from zero. This was when Glenda reached out to the farmer organization COCANUPOL. There she started participating in climate adaptation training offered by c&c. She learned about the safe use and handling of agrochemicals and incorporated climate-smart agricultural practices into her coffee farm including temporary shade, cover crops, gypsum, and crop distancing. She also implemented c&c’s 5X1 diversification system which allowed her to diversify her agricultural production system: 5 rows of coffee are being grown for every row of avocado. The knowledge she’s acquired through c&c has allowed her husband and her to transform their farm and be an example of innovative climate adaptation in their community.

Working together for a climate-smart coffee sector.

c&c has already supported more than 92,000 coffee farming households in seven regions worldwide and will reach an additional 80,000 families by 2024. The initiative is coordinated and implemented by Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS). ICP is encouraging coffee companies and development organizations to join c&c to build a climate-smart coffee sector together.

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