A Two-Pronged Approach To Helping Small Coffee Farmers

With two programmes, the Center for Coffee Research and Education, a component of Texas A&M AgriLife’s Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, is attempting to assist small coffee producers along the coffee value chain.

The coffee plant is the beginning of the farm-to-table journey for a cup of coffee. The Resilient Coffee in Central America initiative, funded by USAID and managed by Texas A&M AgriLife Research through the Borlaug Institute, helped provide hardier coffee hybrids to Central American farmers. Farmers may generate larger, higher-quality coffee harvests early in the growing process by using these hybrids.

On the opposite side of the farm-to-table trip is the necessity to advertise coffee to customers. Small farmers benefit from the 12th Man Coffee Initiative because it provides a direct outlet for their high-quality speciality coffee beans. Both programmes focus on farmer education and the Borlaug Institute’s aim of assisting smallholder farmers in escaping poverty.

“We undertake initiatives all throughout the world to assist small farmers,” said Eric Brenner, the coffee center’s project coordinator. “Our work is representative of Texas A&M University’s effort across the world, particularly via the Borlaug Institute. This is an accurate representation of the Aggie spirit.”

Basics Of The Coffee Crop And Climate Change
Coffee enthusiasts’ favourite morning cup is made from the seed or “bean” of a coffee berry. The principal coffee-growing regions are Central America, Southeast Asia, and equatorial Africa.

The coffee consumed in the United States is made from one of two plant species: Robusta or Arabica. Robusta is more disease resistant and thrives in hotter climates at lower elevations. It does, however, result in a more bitter cup of coffee. Arabica coffee beans are of better grade, resulting in a smoother cup of coffee. It’s also more disease-prone and needs to be cultivated at greater elevations.

“In Central America, climate change has already moved Arabica coffees up around 100 metres (328 feet) up the slopes in the previous 10-15 years,” said Roger Norton, the coffee center’s director. “It used to be said that Arabica coffee requires an altitude of 900-1,000 metres (2,953-3,281 feet).” It’s now between 1,000 and 1,100 metres (3,281-3,609 feet).”

Coffee leaf rust is the most commercially important coffee plant disease. The fungus spreads quickly and damages the plant’s leaves, necessitating the use of fungicides to control it. A rust-infected plant produces fewer, if any, coffee berries, lowering a producer’s earnings. The fungus has the potential to harm the plant, costing the grower much more money.

Warmer, wetter settings are preferable for the fungus. Coffee leaf rust has spread to higher elevations as a result of rising temperatures caused by climate change. Arabica coffee is less resistant to coffee rust by nature, putting it and its higher-quality output at danger.

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