Climate change and Coffee & Cocoa crops
Updated: Nov 17, 2019
The morning coffee ritual and the chocolate bar treat are two beloved traditions we indulge in literally all over the world. Unfortunately, climate change is adversely taking its toll on natural resources, and coffee & cocoa aren’t exempt from its damaging effects.
Climatic events such as extreme temperatures which we are experiencing worldwide, including severe droughts or floods have a direct impact on agricultural practices on these sought-after crops.
It is estimated, according to a report from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)*, that by 2050 coffee-producing land will not be suitable for production and it will be reduced by approximately 50%. Moreover, coffee grows in average temperatures ranging between 18° to 21°C, and with the continued production of green houses by human activity such as CO2, N2O and CH4, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations predicts that temperatures will increase between 0.5 and 8.7 degrees Fahrenheit*. These will cause a huge stress on coffee plants, also affecting taste quality. Likewise, climate change generates long-lasting dry seasons, unpredictable rain which may be of very short duration or extended to long periods generating excess humidity, and one of the most fearsome problems on coffee production: increasing diseases and pests such as coffee leaf rust and the coffee borer beetle posing an adverse threat on coffee production and harvest.
Similarly, cocoa production is facing the devastating impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events have an important impact on cocoa production, leading to soil depletion and thus making it hard to cultivate this crop as well as deforestation, especially in the amazon where wild cocoa is dying due to climate change. According to the study “Global climate change impacts on cocoa“ from the ICCO*, deforestation will worsen the effects of climate change by generating precipitation reductions and addition to emissions of CO2 and other green house gases. Moreover, the World Cocoa Foundation cites that recent studies argue that lands for coca production will be decreased due to climate change. Longer or dryer seasons will negatively affect cocoa crops. Likewise, extreme rain and humidity levels in other areas will increase the possibilities for cocoa pest and disease spread, a very similar scenario to what coffee crops will face.
The devastating consequences of climate change are not only putting at risk the production of these two main crops consumed all over the world, but also posing a threat on the livelihoods of the small farmers who are in charge of producing the vast majority of the world’s cocoa and coffee. With 25 million coffee producers* and up to six million cocoa farmers* worldwide, we must make all possible efforts to tackle climate change in order to ameliorate its adverse impact on both crops.
What can we possibly do? Farmers can benefit from the implementation of agroforestry systems of shade-grown coffee and cocoa with fruit trees like mango, banana, and avocado which help absorbing CO2 in large quantities. Many experts on agricultural practices now believe that his a method that could help mitigating climate change effects. Initiatives such as the “Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) approach“ introduced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations would definitely help farmers developing new methods ad strategies for better agricultural practices and to tackle problems accordingly*. Teaching farmers on best agricultural practices, how to adapt to climate change and increasing their income both from the sale of products (cocoa, banana, fruits, timber) and from incentives for ecosystem services (water, carbon and biodiversity) should be a viable solution.
At Giveafew we aim at ramping up the efforts to implement these alternative strategies to mitigate climate changes in cocoa and coffee production by teaching farmers on new alternatives and foster better farming techniques which will benefit both the environment and their livelihoods. We strongly believe that the little help we can provide to coffee and cocoa farmers will have a big positive impact on climate change mitigation, the future of these crops and the new generations of farmers.
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* A bitter cup: climate change profile of global production of Arabica and Robusta coffee. Bunn, C., Läderach, P., Ovalle Rivera, O. et al. Climatic Change (2015) 129: 89. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1306-x
*Specialty Coffee Association. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/584f6bbef5e23149e5522201/t/5b326b1ff950b7e15cb9d9d1/1530030888030/Climate+Change+and+Coffee%3AActing+Globally+and+Locally.pdf
* IPCC. Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. 2014 - bit.ly/ClimateChange2014
*Carbon stocks and cocoa yields in agroforestry systems of Central America. Available: https://www.journals.elsevier.com/agriculture-ecosystems-and-environment