Small Coffee Producers in Guatemala Innovate with Climate-Smart Farming Practices

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Project Description
With deforestation from farmland expansion factored into the climate change equation, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that agriculture accounts for 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Coffee farmers are extremely vulnerable to increasingly erratic weather patterns and rising sea level, and they are well-positioned to play a vital role in mitigating the negative impacts of climate change.

In February 2011, the Rainforest Alliance and the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) unveiled a Climate Module that consists of 15 criteria focusing on the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. Farmers are trained on the additional criteria and audited by a third-party to receive a certificate for their achievement. The new module was developed through a public consultation with more than 350 stakeholders from 41 countries.

Since 2008, the Rainforest Alliance has been working on measuring carbon store capacity and GHG emissions on farms in Guatemala, where a recent problem of record low rainfall has helped coffee farmers realize that a transition to low-carbon agricultural production could provide a solution.

Los Chujes Sustainable, Social and Economic Development Association (ADESC), is an association of 74 small coffee farmers in in the mountainous area of Vista Hermosa, northeast of Huehuetenagno, which was the first group of small producers to earn Rainforest Alliance verification for its climate-smart farming practices. Each ADESC producer operates on about eight to ten acres of land and processes coffees at small farm-based wet mills.

To meet the critera of the Climate Module, the farmers had to implement a number of improvements. For example, they built live barriers made of species of trees and plants that have optimal soil erosion prevention capacity. Second, since fertilizer is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, the farmers are now analyzing the soil to determine the ideal amount and mix of fertilizers to apply, and are increasingly making their own organic fertilizers on the farms. The fertilizers are then placed in holes dug around the coffee plants and covered with a layer of soil and leaves to reduce offgasing. Another improvement has come in the form of better data. A full inventory has been conducted of the number, size, and species of trees and plants on the farms. With this information, the Rainforest Alliance has helped farms better capture their biodiversity and carbon value.

ADESC members still meet regularly at their coffee collection center to discuss climate change mitigation and adaptation and continuously improve their sustainable management practices. They have become a model of sustainable agriculture in their region and to the world, which will face increasing coffee production and supply issues as a result of climate change factors.

Who Benefits from this project?
ADESC members are now better poised to protect their coffee production and their communities from the affects of climate change. The farms are operating more efficiently and transparently, and collecting more data that continuously provides a better understanding of their impact on climate change. They can now estimate their varying degrees of vulnerability to specific events such as prolonged droughts and severe flooding, along with altered growing seasons and more regular outbreaks of agricultural pests and diseases, like the infamous La Roya, which is now plaguing Central American coffee production.

Farmers are increasing their value through carbon storage as a result of restoration of degraded lands, reforestation, and improved soil conservation, and receiving a premium for their certified coffees on the international market. By participating in training and verification through the SAN Climate Module, ADESC farmers and other coffee producers worldwide are taking innovative steps to protect their farms and their families’ futures.

How Can I Help?
•     Coffee companies can contact the ADESC association directly to purchase its coffees.
•     Coffee companies have the opportunity to support a new Rainforest Alliance climate-smart training program and help mitigate the effects of climate change.
•     Retailers can incentivize their suppliers to source from coffee farms that have been climate-smart verified.
•     Consumers can choose to buy sustainable certified coffees from companies working with farms that have earned Rainforest Alliance verification for their climate-smart practices.

Rain Pic 4 - Small Coffee Producers in Guatemala Innovate with Climate-Smart Farming Practices

These 3 bottles are small-scale models that measure potential levels of soil erosion on the coffee farms. The bottle on the far left has no vegetation cover, so the water coming out is darker, which illustrates that erosion would be more severe. The bottle in the middle has some leaf cover, which is preventing erosion a little better but there is still an issue as you can see by the water color. The third bottle on the right has the best natural vegetation and the erosion issue is reduced almost completely.

Contact Name:     Maya Albanese
Web Site:
Location:     New York, NY, USA
Email Address:     [email protected]
Phone Number:     212.677.1900

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