Beyond sustainability: Why the future of coffee farming is regenerative

In the wake of global events such as the pandemic, modern consumers are more conscious than ever of the environment and the significance of addressing sustainability challenges.

However, while enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning or as an afternoon pick-me-up, many of us may be unaware that the effects of climate change are already very real for the farmers who grow the beans for our favorite blends. For 125 million people around the world, coffee is more than a daily ritual; it is their source of income. However, production is becoming increasingly difficult.

Due to rising temperatures, many farmers are forced to cultivate coffee at higher altitudes, while others face unprecedented droughts or heavy rainfall. In Brazil, the world’s largest coffee-producing nation, farmers continue to struggle for survival in the wake of severe frosts that damaged up to 200,000 hectares of coffee-growing land last year, resulting in a 70% increase in coffee prices between April 2020 and December 2021.

Sixty percent of wild coffee species are critically endangered, and by 2050, fifty percent of the land used to cultivate coffee could be unusable. The future of coffee is ultimately threatened, and farmers are on the front lines. How then can we increase resilience and protect the most popular beverage in the world? Reconsidering the system.

In recent years, significant strides have been made to improve the sustainability of agriculture, but agriculture remains the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. Today, nearly 24 percent of global emissions come from agriculture, and we know that the supply of green coffee accounts for nearly 49 percent of Nespresso’s carbon footprint. This is where regenerative agriculture comes in; we must adopt agricultural practices that not only protect and sustain landscapes, but also restore and replenish them.

You may inquire, “But what does regenerative agriculture actually entail?” While a standard definition has not yet been established, the general principle entails maximizing the positive effects of nature on the environment and communities. For Nespresso, regenerative coffee agriculture addresses the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and community resilience through soil conservation and organic fertilization.

Using these natural methods can reduce the carbon footprint of production and increase its economic viability, making agriculture part of the solution, not the problem, to climate change.

In recent years, the strong connections between regenerative agriculture and farmer profitability have become increasingly apparent. In fact, according to a report published in 2021 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), regenerative agriculture practices in Africa could add more than $15bn in gross value to farmers annually by 2030, and $70bn by 2040 (one-fifth of the current agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of sub-Saharan Africa).

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