San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Shade-Grown Coffee Reaps 2 Kinds of Green Rewards

Shade-grown coffee, a more environmentally friendly way of cultivating the world’s favorite bean, already fetches a higher price on supermarket shelves.

But coffee growers who protect existing trees and reforest within the plantation now could become eligible for environmental service payments through the National Forestry Fund (FONAFIFO).

The Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) and the Agriculture Ministry are currently working on a program to push more coffee producers into shade-grown and sustainable coffee production, according to a statement from CATIE.

One incentive is FONAFIFO’s environmental service payment program, which doles out millions each year to private landowners who protect or grow new forest on their property.

Additionally, some 3,400 coffee growers with the consortium Coffee Growers’ Cooperatives of Guanacaste and Montes de Oro could potentially make money in the carbon credit market, CATIE said.

Elias de Melo, a researcher with CATIE, and Sergio Abarca, a researcher for the Agriculture Ministry, concluded that coffee plantations grown under the cover of trees and sustainably managed can preserve a high level of biodiversity and protect water sources and the soil.

De Melo estimated that the shadegrown coffee plantations across the country are home to more than 250 species of trees, store about 2.8 million tons of carbon dioxide and are home to a wide variety of other plant and animal species.

Industry leaders have been promoting environmentally friendly practices in Costa Rica.

Speaking at the annual Sintercafé coffee conference in San José in November, Tensie Whelan, president of the environmental certification organization Rainforest Alliance, said coffee could be the leader of an environmental revolution in agricultural practices.

She told The Tico Times she believes coffee producers are “the farthest ahead” in making their practices more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

–Leland Baxter-Neal


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