A new financial model for growing coffee in a warming world
The global Fair Trade movement has done a stellar job of highlighting the economic plight of coffee farmers in the developing world, many who barely eke out a living growing one of the world’s most heavily traded commodities. And while Fair Trade has always had an environmental element to it, that may become more pronounced as these farmers become some of the first victims of global climate change.
According to the UK Guardian, coffee farmers in Uganda are facing unprecedented challenges:
…80% of coffee trees were now affected by pests compared with about 10% three or four years ago. In the past a coffee tree used to produce an average 2kg of beans a year but now farmers are barely collecting 0.5kg a tree. Quality is also being affected.
Climate change is the suspected culprit: warmer average temperatures mean more moisture, which creates a more favorable environment for pests and disease. These problems hit arabica plants (which produce the highest quality beans) the hardest, as they need pretty specific conditions to thrive.
The British Fairtrade Foundation has an idea that may help offset not only the potential economic calamity, but also coffee farmers’ contributions to global warming. The organization wants to serve as a broker of carbon credits between coffee retailers and growers. Farmers can create the credits through reforestation efforts as well as low carbon technologies for light and heat. The retailers can purchase these credits to offset some of their own emissions.
It’s an innovative plan, though one with issues: accurately measuring the carbon offsets created from tree planting is especially problematic. If done right, though, the plan will not only help farmers sequester carbon, but also create more space for higher-quality (yet lower yield) shade grown coffee.
Take a look at the video above to get a sense of the problems created for coffee growers by a warming atmosphere… and let us know if you think the Fairtrade Foundation’s model can help.
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