As we know, the production of coffee has a negative impact on the environment and on the people who grow and harvest the beans. Farmers and mill workers deserve fair compensation for their work. We cannot afford to take advantage of these valuable crops if we do not give them the fair compensation they deserve. This is where sustainable coffee farming comes into play. In addition to making sure that coffee is produced sustainably, coffee farming practices should also be as transparent and efficient as possible.
Impact of Climate Change
The coffee industry is dependent on the global population for its success. However, this population is also a huge contributor to greenhouse gases, which are now causing average temperatures to increase by more than 5degF by the year 2100. According to the U.N.’s environmental program, the goal is to keep temperatures below 3.6degF. Climate change and coffee farming are both threatening to disrupt coffee production.
The main producing countries, including Vietnam, Colombia, and Brazil, are among those suffering from the effects of climate change. Despite these challenges, coffee is still a high-value crop, and the negative effects of climate change are more severe in these regions than in others. As temperatures rise, coffee can’t be grown as easily, and as a result, coffee futures have gone up. However, this won’t help existing coffee farms, which might end up being destroyed by deforestation.
Farmers in the Global North face many challenges, including drought, a shortage of water, and the increased risk of pests. Large-scale farms may appear to be the only solution, but small-scale farmers aren’t able to afford the necessary infrastructure to adapt. The only viable solution may be moving “up-slope,” which might further deforestation. But this may not be the best option, since high-quality beans need high elevation.
Coffee was traditionally grown in tropical and subtropical environments, where trees and insects thrived. But as the world’s population has grown, plantations have been created, removing trees that would otherwise have shaded the plants. These plantations have also caused significant deforestation. They are also degrading the soil and depriving water ecosystems of oxygen. That’s a big problem, but a good one.
One solution is to plant more trees next to coffee crops. This approach can offset the effects of deforestation and produce more fertile soil. However, experts worry that these measures may be too late. By 2050, the area used for coffee growing could be doubled, which threatens some of the world’s last intact forests. This would require coffee farmers to increase yield per hectare. The impact of climate change on coffee beans’ sustainability is already being felt.
In addition to affecting coffee yield, the effects of climate change on coffee quality may also affect the taste, aroma, and quality of the coffee. In some cases, a subpar cup of coffee will even cause its producers to lose money. These factors affect the price of coffee, the interest of buyers, and the livelihoods of coffee farmers. So how can coffee producers combat climate change? There are currently several adaptation strategies being implemented to mitigate the effects of climate change.
One of the main environmental challenges of coffee production involves wet milling. The wet milling process is a major part of coffee production, but it is the least talked about phase. Wet milling is a process where Coffee Beans are separated from their fruit by pulping and fermenting. The beans are then washed to remove the mucilage. Finally, they are dried to a proper humidity level.
While coffee production requires vast amounts of water, wet milling processes produce a large amount of wastewater that can contaminate nearby water sources. The wastewater generated by coffee processing factories is 30-40 times more polluted than that of urban sewage. The International Coffee Organisation has stated that water pollution from wet processing is the biggest environmental challenge in some coffee-growing regions. While there are methods of countering deforestation, wet milling is an inefficient process that is responsible for causing serious environmental problems.
Another environmental challenge is the production of conventional coffee. Wet milling processes remove coffee cherries from the vine and separate defective and regular coffee beans. The beans are then sorted. They are then stripped of their protective coating and allowed to ferment. Many small coffee mills consume millions of gallons of water each year, depleting local water resources and killing off aquatic organisms. This waste is also used as a biofertilizer.
Fortunately, the newer technology is reducing the water consumption associated with wet milling. Wet mills require less water per pound of coffee. The newer machines used by Pro-cafe reduce water usage by up to 50 percent. In some cases, water use is reduced to five gallons per pound, and the effluent is returned to the river much cleaner than before.
The effluent from coffee processing plants contains different macromolecules, such as caffeine and polyphenols. Coffee melanoidins, in turn, consist of tannins, polysaccharides, and combinations of ligands. They are tough to degrade and pose a threat to human health. In addition to opacity, these compounds cause a large amount of nitrogen in the water, which is toxic to humans.
Intensive coffee farming has negatively affected the environment. Water pollution from the processing of coffee beans contaminated the Guarino River. Furthermore, climate change exacerbated this environmental issue, affecting the livelihoods of farmers downstream. Fortunately, farmers and cooperatives are beginning to address these challenges, with the help of biogas and grass. They are taking action to ensure that their coffee farms do not damage the environment.
Wet processing requires a large volume of water and generates a large amount of highly polluted wastewater. The by-products of wet processing include parchment, mucilage, and pulp, which contain 43%, 12%, and 6% of the coffee bean’s weight. Additionally, wet milling produces highly acidic waste, which is difficult to treat. Fortunately, there are methods to manage the wastewater and produce coffee with high quality and low-impact levels.
Need for More Research
A need for more research on sustainable coffee farming is evident in the industry today. Increasing crop yields in coffee cultivation often come at a cost: more fertilizer and agrochemicals are used, which is a major concern for many people. Lessening these substances also means higher crop losses. In Costa Rica, coffee farmers have been adopting intensive shade systems and low-shaded systems to increase yields.
In northern and Andean Latin America, seven major farm changes are occurring. Conventional intensification, a common method of growing coffee, affects shade levels and agrochemical use. The effects of these changes on the environment are unknown. The benefits of sustainable coffee farming are clear for farms, but further research is needed to determine how to implement them more efficiently. This study focuses on organic coffee farming, which has a lower impact on the environment than conventional methods.
The lack of information regarding the effects of the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers is also contributing to the problem. Farmers have switched to other crops to make more profit and diversify their coffee farms with other plants. As a result, the market for sustainable coffee farming will mature. Once the market reaches maturity, price premiums will decrease. Farmers will have to invest in higher productivity and production to stay in business.
Shade-grown coffee mimics forest structure, allowing farmers to maximize yields while saving money. Unlike conventional coffee production, shade-grown coffee offers a better habitat for birds and other wildlife. The added bonus is that the trees themselves provide ecosystem services to the coffee plantations, replacing fertilizer and pesticides. And they also help protect the coffee from pests. That’s a win-win situation for everyone.
In addition to this, coffee cultivation also has negative impacts on biodiversity. It is estimated that 60 percent of the wild coffee species are threatened, and coffee production has encroached on previously forest areas. As a result, biodiversity has decreased. As a result, coffee cultivation has impacted the Amazonian forests. Intensive sun-grown coffee farms also create problems with pests and pollination, perpetuating environmental degradation.
While abandonment of coffee farming has increased in recent years, more research is needed to help farmers transition to sustainable practices. However, current methods of sustainable coffee farming are not as well-defined as what is required to ensure that it remains profitable in the long run. This is where the ALC is coming in. Its agroecology research program is designed to identify and address key coffee issues. There are a number of ways to improve the quality of coffee, as well as to improve the productivity of the crop.
In the meantime, climate change is causing farmers to face increasingly severe weather patterns. Coffee farmers in developing countries are often forced to operate under incredibly variable climate conditions. Climate change has made the soil and water resources of these countries highly vulnerable. With the right practices, farmers can mitigate the effects of climate change and increase the farm’s productivity and profitability. In addition, the use of more environmentally-friendly technologies, such as shade coffee certification schemes, could reduce the likelihood of these farmers suffering from climate change.