Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Does shade coffee help or hinder conservation?

25.11.2003


Labeled "bird-friendly" but may accelerate tropical forest clearing


Blue-Crowned Motmot - one of the many bird species that depend on tropical forests in coffee farming regions
-- Photo: Thomas Dietsch


A coffee landscape in the Soconusco Region of Chiapas, Mexico. There is a distinct difference between the two coffee farms depicted. On the right slope of the photo is Finca Irlanda, a coffee farm that has been recently certified as "Bird-Friendly®" coffee, and also meets criteria for Eco-OK Certification. The farm on the left, Finca Hamburgo, clearly looks different (i.e. you can see rows of coffee under the sparse shade, in contrast to the dense shade in Finca Irlanda). This second farm DOES NOT meet the criteria of "Bird-Friendly®" coffee nor for Eco-OK Certification and thus shows our point that not all farms qualitatively classified as "shade-grown" will meet rigid certification guidelines.
--Photo: Shinsuke Uno



While shade coffee is promoted as protecting tropical forests and birds, conservationists are split on whether it actually works. The December issue of Conservation Biology has the latest on the debate: one side says shade coffee can give farmers a reason to preserve tropical biodiversity while the other side fears it can actually encourage farmers to clear more forest.

Shade coffee is a traditional farming method of growing coffee bushes under a canopy of diverse trees, which helps protect the many bird species that depend on them.


The case for shade coffee is argued by Stacy Philpott of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Thomas Dietsch of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in Washington DC, who say the keys to making it work are requiring rigorous certification and offering financial incentives. "Without incentives, and faced with economic hardship, farmers may convert their lands to sun coffee, pasture or swidden agriculture, requiring that they cut more forest," they say.

Philpott and Dietsch say that there are currently two rigorous shade certification programs (Bird-friendly Coffee from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, and Eco-OK from the Rainforest Alliance) that require a diverse canopy over coffee farms. However, these programs are not widely used by small coffee farmers in part because they can be expensive.

To encourage more farmers to continue growing shade coffee instead of switching to less conservation-friendly types of agriculture, Philpott and Dietsch advocate linking shade certification with fair-trade certification. The latter has the advantages of covering the costs of farm visits, and of helping small farmers make a living by offering price premiums and loans. "Unless shade standards are linked to price premiums for coffee producers...these programs will ultimately fail...when farmers face the choice of clearing forest or starvation," they say.

To make shade certification programs stronger, Philpott and Dietsch also recommend giving coffee farmers financial incentives to maintain biodiversity-rich shade farms and to preserve adjacent forest fragments. Finally, to help keep farmers from converting more forest to shade coffee, they recommend only certifying farms that are 10 or more years old.

The case against shade coffee is argued by John Rappole of the Smithsonian Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia; David King of the U.S. Forest Service Northeast Experiment Station at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst; and Jorge Vega Rivera of the Instituto Biologia in San Patricio, Mexico.

While shade certification sounds good in theory, Rappole and his colleagues say that it does not always work in practice. "Currently, promotion far outstrips certification," they say, noting that several retailers claim their coffee is shade-grown and bird-friendly but lack rigorous certification programs. The problem is that simply being grown in the shade is not enough to make coffee bird-friendly. Besides the traditional farms where shade is provided by a diverse canopy, there are also multi-crop coffee farms where shade is provided by cacao and a few other economically valuable trees.

Because shade certification is not necessarily rigorous, offering economic incentives for shade coffee could encourage farmers to clear more forest, say Rappole and his colleagues. They have seen extensive areas of native forest replaced by low-diversity, multi-crop shade coffee farms during their years of fieldwork in Mexico and Central America. "I have worried for a long time that shade coffee promotion could have unintended consequences," says Rappole.



CONTACT:

Stacy Philpott: 734-764-1446, sphilpot@umich.edu)
Thomas Dietsch: 202-673-4790, dietscht@nzp.si.edu)
John Rappole: 540-635-6537, (jrappole@cres.si.edu)

Stacy Philpott | Society for Conservation Biology
Further information:
http://www.conbio.org/SCB/Services/Tips/2003-12-Dec.cfm
http://nationalzoo.si.edu/ConservationAndScience/MigratoryBirds/
http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/fairtrade/coffee/index.html

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Despite government claims, orangutan populations have not increased. Call for better monitoring
06.11.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Increasing frequency of ocean storms could alter kelp forest ecosystems
30.10.2018 | University of Virginia

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>