Coffee growers turn to carbon credits for help

The devastating impact of climate change on coffee production globally could be significantly off-set by reforestation programmes funded by carbon trading, using carbon credits earned by newly planted trees.

That’s the core proposition of a report titled ‘Coffee Climate Crisis’ which is published today by the ethical hot drinks brand, Cafédirect. Their argument is supported by evidence from a Peruvian project in which they’re working with smallholder coffee growers to combat climate change impacts, such as floods and landslides, largely caused by deforestation.

“The key challenge in Peru was to create a sustainable finance stream which would enable remote coffee growing communities to combat the impact of climate change on their production areas,” Cafédirect’s head of strategic development, Wolfgang Heinemann, told edie. “While there’s a lot of talk about the carbon market and criticism of what it does and does not deliver, we set about creating a carbon credits-based strategy which we believe could have a massive impact on the reforestation of high-lying land, linked to lower lying coffee production areas.”

In effect, you replant trees on the high land, earn carbon credits from them, sell the credits and use the income to plant trees. There is an inevitable loop-chain in this system which works when it’s all up and running. To get to that stage, therefore, Cafédirect has committed £55,000 of investment to the project between 2010 and 2015, and is working closely with smallholder coffee farmers of the Central Piurana de Cafetaleros co-operative (CEPICAFE), based in the Sierra Piura region of northern Peru, and one of Cafédirect’s 38 global grower partners.

There are actually two communities involved in the climate change programme. These are the villagers of Choco, situated more than 3,000 metres above sea level, and the CEPICAFE growers in the villages 2,000 metres lower down. While deforestation of the high areas over many years has provided essential income for the Choco villagers, the impact of that process is now being felt by the CEPICAFE farmers whose small family plots currently yield almost 4,000 tonnes of coffee a year.

Under the Cafédirect development, 90% of the funds raised by selling carbon credits from newly planted trees, goes to the Choco villagers to fund further plantings. The remaining 10% goes to CEPICAFE.

Cafédirect says there are approximately 25 million coffee farming families in 60 countries around the world and that many are already facing devastating climate change impacts, including flooding, drought, pests and crop diseases.

The coffee company also warns that unless urgent action is taken, coffee drinkers will almost certainly face soaring prices for coffee in supermarkets and cafés and could, in turn, face shortages of supply.

“Coffee is currently priced at $2-$2.20 a pound,” said Mr Heinemann. “Without wishing to name a price which could be reached if we don’t act on climate change now, it’s worth remembering that short-term weather factors and crop failures have driven prices into the $3-4 range in the past. That’s without the impact of rising demand from emerging markets.”

To date, more than 100,000 trees have been planted in the Choco region with a further 80,000 due to be planted this year. A total of 42,784 carbon credits will be created over the project’s 25 years with Cafedirect agreeing to buy 5,092 over the first six years. Total project revenue for Choco villagers over 25 years is estimated at just over $633,000, against accreditation and auditing costs of $123,000.

Edie staff

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